Congress likely to make DK Shivakumar next Karnataka unit chief
In what is being seen as a delicate balancing act between competing caste claims, the Congress high command is likely to announce the party’s key troubleshooter in Karnataka, DK Shivakumar as the next KPCC president with M B Patil as the working president, according to sources in the party. Former chief minister S Siddaramaiah is likely to continue as the Congress Legislature Party leader.
The KPCC presidentship has been vacant ever since incumbent Dinesh Gundu Rao resigned following the drubbing in the by-polls where the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party won 12 of the 15 seats ensuring a majority for itself in the assembly. All the 12 seats had earlier been held by the Congress party but the legislators had resigned and crossed over to the BJP.
The state leadership had become contentious with Shivakumar, a Vokkaliga, lobbying heavily with the party high command, to ensure that his role as the party’s main go-to man during difficult times be rewarded. M B Patil, a former home minister and a Lingayat leader was the choice of Siddaramaiah.
While party leaders were unwilling to come on record, a former minister in the Siddaramiah cabinet speaking to HT said, “It is now just a matter of formality. How long could the current uncertainty continue? Shivakumar is aggressive and a go-getter who can also help generate funds for the party. For instance, on the Bidar school sedition issue, we were late and started an agitation only after the accused got bail. With Shivakumar at the helm, we will be more aggressive and able to put the BJP government on a mat by highlighting all their omissions and commissions.”
Shivakumar’s choice as the party president though is likely to be controversial. He faces ongoing income tax and enforcement directorate probes. He is currently out on bail after being jailed by the ED in a money laundering case. He is a seven term MLA and has served as a minister in the cabinets of former chief ministers, S Bangarappa, S M Krishna, Siddaramiah and Kumaraswamy.
In his 2018 poll affidivat, Shivakumar had declared assets worth ₹840 crore making him one of the richest politicians in the state. His brother D K Suresh is a two term parliamentarian and is the sitting MP from Bangalore Rural constituency.
His latest move to build the world’s largest Christ statue at his constituency in Kanakapura has also come in for severe attack from Sangh Parivar outfits who claim the land he donated is actually government owned and has been illegally usurped.
Political analyst Manjunath said that Shivakumar is likely to inject a great degree of dynamism into the functioning of the party. “He sees himself as a future Chief Minister and is very ambitious. If the appointments are confirmed, it will only vindicate the fact that the party high command has tried to balance caste interests by having a Vokkaliga, a Lingayat and a Kuruba – the three leading castes in the state - heading different parts of the party. Also since the BJP is making a concerted effort to break into the Vokkaliga votebank, nominating Shivakumar is a smart move to consolidate the community behind the party.”