Crisis exposes Congress’ leadership vacuum in Karnataka, say analysts

BENGALURU: The Congress in Karnataka seems to have been hit by a leadership vacuum. As dissidence within the party snowballed into a major crisis, JD(S) leader and Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy had to step in to take up the issue with the Congress high command.

Ironically, when Kumaraswamy met the disgruntled Congress leaders at M B Patil’s residence in Bengaluru and assured to convey their concerns to the Congress leadership, former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah was busy touring Badami in North Karnataka to thank voters for electing him. While KPCC president and Deputy Chief Minister G Parameshwara and KPCC working president Dinesh Gundu Rao did make an attempt to quell the dissidence, the party high command was too slow in reacting to the situation.

“It is very unfortunate that the JD(S) leaders had to intervene in the Congress’ internal issues. Our party leaders should not have allowed the situation to reach such a stage,” a senior Congress leader told The New Indian Express. Though the dissidence erupted on Wednesday soon after the ministry was expanded, the Congress high command summoned Patil to New Delhi on Friday, that too after the Chief Minister’s intervention. While Kumaraswamy may have taken the initiative to ensure that there is no threat to the coalition government, his intervention highlighted the failure of state Congress leaders to deal with the crisis, said political analysts. “M B Patil is hurt as he feels let down by his party leadership,” said Kumaraswamy after he met Patil.

“Very clearly there is a leadership vacuum in the Congress after Siddaramaiah stepped down,” said political analyst Prof Sandeep Shastri. “Dissidence within the party is a serious development. Having agreed to play second fiddle to the JD(S), factionalism within the party is clearly coming out. As long as Siddaramaiah was the Chief Minister, dissidence was under control as the high command clearly said he is leading the party. Now, you are in a coalition government and divisions within the party have emerged clearly,” he said.

Siddaramaiah is the head of the Congress Legislature Party and the Coalition Coordination Committee, while Parameshwara is the DyCM and KPCC president. While KPCC working president S R Patil had resigned from the position taking moral responsibility of the party’s poor performance in the elections, another working president Dinesh Gundu Rao was a ministerial aspirant. With no clarity on who is in charge of the party in the state, Congress leaders were expecting AICC general secretary in charge of Karnataka K C Venugopal to step in.

“Kumaraswamy reaching out to M B Patil is for his own survival and not to rescue Congress. However, with multiple power centres in the Congress, there will be some drift and also more power centres will lead to more dissidence,” Shastri said.

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