After Karnataka govt’s fall, ‘loyalists vs outsiders’ debate grips Congress
The fall of the coalition government in Karnataka, mainly due to resignations by rebel Congress legislators, has triggered a “loyalists versus outsiders” debate within the grand old party.
A meeting of Congress leaders in Bengaluru held on Wednesday witnessed fireworks after a section of the party held the state leadership responsible for the crisis.
Giving details of the meeting, a Congress functionary said on condition of anonymity that several leaders raised the issue of “anomalies” in ticket distribution .
“Many of them spoke about tickets being given to outsiders, some of whom are contractors and businessmen with no loyalty towards the party,” he said.
“A good number of rebel legislators whose resignations resulted in the fall of the coalition government were outsiders who had joined the Congress just before the 2018 assembly elections,” said the functionary who attended Wednesday’s meeting in Bengaluru.
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Karnataka Congress president Dinesh Gundu Rao, Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Siddaramaiah and senior leaders G Parameshwara and DK Shivakumar were among those who attended the review meeting.
This issue even resonated on the floor of the state assembly during the debate on the trust vote on Tuesday when Congress member Narayana Rao said, “You give tickets to real estate agents, builders and excise contractors, and expect them to stay loyal to a political ideal.”
Even Rahul Gandhi, in his tweet, blamed vested interests “within” the party for the ruling coalition’s defeat in the trust vote.
“From its first day, the Cong-JD(S) alliance in Karnataka was a target for vested interests, both within & outside, who saw the alliance as a threat & an obstacle in their path to power. Their greed won today. Democracy, honesty & the people of Karnataka lost,” he said.
The debate is not new in the party.
Soon after his anointment as Congress vice-president at Jaipur in January 2013, Gandhi had resolved to give block, district and state units greater say in candidate selection.
He had also stated that “paratroopers, rebels, discards from other parties and outsiders, apart from relatives of senior leaders” will not be accommodated in the party organisation or given Congress tickets.
Gandhi reiterated the commitment in the party’s 84th plenary in Delhi in February 2018 after taking over the reins of the Congress in December 2017.
“We will not give tickets to those who have been airdropped from helicopters or have come from other parties,” he had said, asserting that party workers will be consulted before fielding candidates.
But these norms were often flouted in the garb of the winnability factor with “paratroopers” in many elections given preference over party loyalists.
In Karnataka, the Congress had repeatedly come under severe criticism over allegations of sale of tickets in the past three assembly elections.
Just before the 2008 assembly elections, senior leader Margaret Alva had created a flutter by alleging that party tickets were sold, in a scathing attack aimed at party colleagues Prithviraj Chavan, Digvijaya Singh and Vayalar Ravi.
In 2013, similar allegations had forced the Congress leadership to review its list of candidates.
In 2018, Congress veteran M Veerappa Moily had slammed the candidate selection process by alleging a nexus between road contractors and the state leadership.
The state leaders have now demanded that the process should be reviewed and only party loyalists be considered for tickets.
“During the Congress party’s formative years in the public arena, Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel gave priority in ticket allocation to honourable, respect-worthy professionals such as teachers, doctors, journalists, lawyers, trade unionists and activists,” said Congress spokesperson Brijesh Kalappa.
“It’s time to go back to the basics,” he added.