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It's inflection point for state Congress with Siddu's resignation

A section of the Congress leaders wants the 71-year-old leader to continue to lead the party and considers his leadership indispensable in the present scenario, while rival camps have been gunning for his head and pushing for a change in leadership.

, ET Bureau|
Dec 12, 2019, 11.15 AM IST
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None of the Congress MLAs including those who are perceived to be close to Siddaramaiah has made any public comments urging him to withdraw his resignation.

Former chief minister Siddaramaiah's resignation from the post of leader of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) as well as the Opposition in the Assembly following the party’s massive defeat in the December 5 bypolls has left the Karnataka Congress divided.

A section of the Congress leaders wants the 71-year-old leader to continue to lead the party and considers his leadership indispensable in the present scenario, while rival camps have been gunning for his head and pushing for a change in leadership. On December 9, after the Congress won two out of the 15 seats that went to bypolls, Siddaramaiah announced taking moral responsibility for the party’s defeat and resigned as the leader of CLP and the Opposition. “I will continue my efforts as a loyal Congressman to strengthen the party,” he had said.

Although the Congress high command is yet to take a call on his resignation and a section of senior leaders is said to be bringing pressure on the central leaders to accept the resignation, supporters of Siddaramaiah say his role as CLP and Opposition leader is crucial for the party to take on the ruling BJP over the next three years.

“The Karnataka Congress has many leaders, but none who can match his (Siddaramaiah’s) charisma and popularity,” said a Congress leader, not wanting to be identified. The person, however, supported Siddaramaiah’s stand to take moral responsibility and step down.

Interestingly, none of the Congress MLAs including those who are perceived to be close to Siddaramaiah has made any public comments urging him to withdraw his resignation.

It is widely perceived that sections of senior leaders including Mallikarjun Kharge, G Parameshwara, KH Muniyappa, M Veerappa Moily, BK Hariprasad and GC Chandrashekhar are believed to be unhappy with Siddaramaiah enjoying maximum power in state politics.

Those who are opposing his leadership argue that the party had come to power even before Siddaramaiah rose to popularity. “A lot of factors contributed to the party’s victory in the 2013 Assembly elections. The fact that we lost the 2018 elections, and now the by-elections, is an indication that his popularity is fading,” a senior Congress leader who did not wish to be named, said.

Former legislative council chairman VR Sudarshan said that it is time the party’s senior leaders nurtured and made way for the young blood to take over.

“Even Siddaramaiah has moral and political responsibility to nurture the next line of leaders. As it is, for popular leaders like Siddaramaiah, designation does not matter,” he said.

Political observers see plenty of reasons behind why Siddaramaiah is inevitable for the state Congress for the next few years. “The fact that the Congress largely depends on Ahinda (Kannada acronym for minorities, backward classes and Dalits) votes and Siddaramaiah enjoys the support of Ahinda voters is why his leadership is important,” political analyst Muzaffar Assadi told ET.

Siddaramaiah’s supporters point to the higher vote share the Congress polled in the Assembly elections last year than the BJP. The Congress got 38.61% of votes as opposed to BJP’s 36.43%. The Congress ended up as a runner-up because the votes it polled were scattered across constituencies unlike in respect of the BJP where it saw a trend of more concentrated voting.

Further, Assadi said that at a time when a section of minority and dalit voters is drifting away from the Congress, only Siddaramaiah could bring the voters back to the Congress fold.

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