Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah has been ordered by the Congress high command to appear before AK Antony on Wednesday to account for the divisions within the state unit of the party. The unhappiness of party leaders with the chief minister spilled out into the open during a delegates’ summit last week.
The delegates came inches short of blows on many occasions and in one such fight, police intervened to save home minister KJ George who was trapped in the jostling.
Some fights were between supporters and critics of Rahul Gandhi while others were between factions loyal to Siddaramaiah and those backing KPCC president G Parameshwara.
It was alleged that Siddaramaiah managed to keep Parameshwara away from the deputy chief minister’s post only because of Rahul and Sonia Gandhi’s backing.
Emboldened by the first family’s weakening grip on the party after the Lok Sabha rout, Siddaramaiah’s opponents have even threatened to replace him in six months. “I may not be around in a few months but the party will finish five years,” Siddaramaiah had said.
In another indication of the situation, when asked whether he would be able to launch the proposed motorbike ambulance service in three months, health minister UT Khader said, “There is no guarantee that I will be around in three months. I will finish the work before that.”
The main reason for the dissatisfaction is the chief minister’s refusal to appoint new heads for many boards and corporations. Such posts are considered lucrative as their heads enjoy a cabinet rank. “Much of the infighting can be contained by a cabinet expansion and appointments to boards and corporations but Siddaramaiah is said to be keen to appoint only his loyalists to these posts,” said a senior party leader.
Although sources claim the meeting with Antony is a “routine affair”, it is highly unlikely that the party will overlook the dramatic scenes that played out at the delegates’ meet.