The Congress which has a bright future in Karnataka compared to its status in several other States is now at the crossroads largely due to the infighting among senior leaders and the party high command being helpless in controlling the situation.
It is imperative for the Congress leadership to immediately step in and appoint a new president for the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee since the incumbent, Dinesh Gundu Rao has not found acceptance by several sections within the party, which believe that he is only a nominee of the former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah against whom there is a simmering opposition.
The AICC presidents representative, Madhusudan Mistry, who was in Bengaluru over the last weekend ascertained the opinion of senior leaders following which some major changes in the party hierarchy are expected.
Former Deputy Chief Minister G. Parameshwara is expected to be a favourite for the post of KPCC president given his credentials of having served as the head of the State unit for a record eight years. Congress chief Sonia Gandhi is also stated to be in his favour since he is a well-recognised leader who has the support of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
Ahead of the brief legislature session in Bengaluru which commenced on Thursday, the Congress high command appointed Mr. Siddaramaiah as the leader of the Congress Legislature Party and Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Assembly while senior legislator S.R. Patil was made Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council.
There is, however, no clarity on whether the party high command continues to have faith in the leadership of Mr. Siddaramaiah since he has been dropped from the membership of the Congress Working Committee, which is the highest decision-making body in the party. Rahul Gandhi had appointed Mr. Siddaramaiah as CWC member.
If this is the position of the Congress, the situation in the ruling BJP is even worse since its State unit is directly controlled by the party high command leading to considerable dissent among a section of the State leaders, particularly Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa and his associates in the government and in the party. However, much to the pleasure of the State BJP which is fraught with multiple issues, the Congress too is riddled with problems and it is obvious that the present state of affairs in the Congress in Karnataka is largely due a weak party high command.
With bypolls to 15 Assembly seats due in December, which is of paramount importance to the BJP , it is highly doubtful whether the Congress can put up a tough challenge.
It is common knowledge that Mr Siddaramaiah is against any working arrangement with the Janata Dal (S) and so is the leadership of the JD (S) which believes that it was Mr. Siddaramaiah who brought down the coalition government by prompting some of his close associates to align with the BJP.
Thus, a poll alliance between the Congress and the JD(S) is highly unlikely and this will serve as a boon to the BJP.
At the present juncture, the strength of the BJP in Karnataka is believed to be dipping with several power centres within the party calling the shots. It is also stated that corruption in the administration is on a high unlike the anti-corruption stance of the Union government and the central unit of the party.
(The writer is Senior Fellow, The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy)