Karnataka Congress chief sets ball rolling on ‘padayatra’ plan
- Karnataka Congress chief DK Shivakumar intends to march to at least 100 assembly constituencies where the party lost in the 2018 elections
Congress president of Karnataka unit D K Shivakumar on Monday set in motion his plans to undertake a ‘padayatra’ or march to at least 100 assembly constituencies across the state starting Wednesday.
Over the next 10 months, the Congress leader aims to visit these constituencies where the party lost in the 2018 elections, to identify its area of weakness and subsequently better its chances in the 2023 assembly polls.
However, the war within the party’s top brass — mainly between Shivakumar and leader of opposition Siddaramaiah — in the state has dented its prospects and plans to corner the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in the state.
Former Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah has refused to cede control over the party and continues to remain a challenge to Shivakumar who looks to mobilize support, end growing factionalism and pursue a cadre-based approach ahead of the next elections.
People familiar with the development said that Siddaramaiah’s significant control over party affairs and its legislators has left Shivakumar slightly distraught and seemingly isolated.
“There are no groups. All of us belong to the Congress. All of us are working to bring the party to power in the state,” Shivakumar told reporters in Kolar district on Monday, refusing to acknowledge the simmering trouble within the party.
The state Congress chief is slated to begin his ‘padayatra’ on Wednesday from Devanahalli, just outside Bengaluru, where he will hold meetings with workers before proceeding further.
The growing differences between the two top Congress leaders was reignited in the recently-held Mysuru mayor elections where the party lost the top chair to its ally Janata Dal (Secular) or JD(S).
It was two years ago that the Congress and JD(S) came together to keep the BJP at bay in the Mysuru corporation. The JD(S) retained the mayor’s post despite an agreement to handover the same to the Congress this year.
“The message was passed on to the JD(S) and our party corporators in Mysuru but they did not go according to the plan,” a Congress leader said on condition of anonymity.
However, Congress corporators chose to back the Janata Dal (Secular) despite orders from its top leadership as they feared losing power in the corporation, the leader added. The grand old party feared that the Janata Dal (Secular) would join hands with the Bharatiya Janata Party incase the former withdrew their support.
Siddaramaiah chided Shivakumar and two others — Congress legislator Tanveer Sait and former MP from Chamrajanagar R Dhruvanarayana – after he lost control of the council in his home district of Mysuru, people familiar with the matter said.
Both Sait and Dhruvanarayana were directed to oversee the mayoral polls and have now been summoned to Bengaluru on February 24 to explain their version of events.
Earlier, Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar had locked horns over the youth Congress elections where the former had backed Raksha Ramaiah and the latter supported Mohammed Nalapad as contenders for the polls.
Nalapad was disqualified even though he won the highest number of votes, leading to more friction between the two main factions.
While the BS Yediyurappa-led government in the state has been forced to go on the backfoot due to dissent within his ministers, shortage of funds and his inability to get the Centre release more funds for the state, the Congress has remained toothless so far in its attack on the government. The infighting within the Congress had rendered them ineffective against the Yediyurappa government.
Siddaramaiah has also met senior party leaders in Delhi to discuss the ongoing tension within the party, people familiar with the matter said. The two leaders aspire to become the next chief ministerial candidate, a Congress leader said on condition of anonymity.
Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s presence at Shivakumar’s daughter’s wedding on February 17 is being construed as the high command’s support for the Vokkaliga leader, the Congress leader added.
Rahul is expected to take part in Shivakumar’s padyatra sometime later this month.