State Cong in a muddle

Karnataka politics has hit a nadir. If ruling BJP is a divided house after the exit of B S Yeddyurappa as chief minister, with multiple groupings trying to pull strings, main Opposition Congress party is in equal disarray and unable to capitalise on the BJP’s failings. Recently appointed president of the Congress’ state unit, G Parameshwara, who replaced R V Deshpande and D K Shiv Kumar under the party high command's belief that dual leadership was not working well, appears not just alone but isolated as well, despite the fact that he has a brand new executive team—a luxury denied to all his predecessors after Dharam Singh. All state presidents from S M Krishna onwards until now, had to work with the existing ragged team. But Parameshwara was given the go ahead to reconstituting the executive as soon as he took charge some months ago. But his unilateral and inappropriate choice of office bearers, including a businessman, an academic and others with little or no party building skills, has left many seniors miffed. Old work horses such as Ugrappa, V R Sudarshan, Hasanabba and the like are not utilised effectively.

Moreover, Parasmeshwara is a greenhorn compared to past presidents like S Bangarappa, Janardhan Poojary, Dharam Singh and S M Krishna, who were all grassroots leaders or veterans. Parameshwara was a one-time minister during Krishna's chief ministership. Besides that, his experience with party building is limited to his home turf - Tumkur district. If he is unable to identify the right workers and take everyone together, how will he identify winning candidates when assembly election is around, wonder some seniors, who argue that early hustings is a strong possibility with the BJP in a flux. Just as the BJP’s central leadership, the state BJP too is fractured as never before. Hence, anytime election cannot be ruled out, is the Congress contention.  

These leaders have a point. It’s not just the political instability. Even as far as development programmes are concerned, Karnataka and Parameshwara could not have had it better. Every state in the country is a beneficiary of Congress-led Centre’ssponsored programmes such as the flagship rural job guarantee scheme, urban infrastructure renewal mission, rail track upgradation, Sadak Yojana for road and highway improvement, universal health and education missions, so on and so forth. The funding is liberal, complete and continuous. All that party president Sonia Gandhi wanted the state units to do was to disseminate this information to the people and ensure that they avail of the benefits. Is that too tall an order to fulfill, ask disgruntled seniors. Another aspect upsetting them is carrying  block-level fights to the high command.

‘Non-awareness campaign’

Intra-party criticism of the ongoing lack lustre awareness campaign - Congress nadige, janada balige (Congress walks, towards People) - speaks of the disillusionment. Its like a cry in the wilderness and nothing to write home about, complain partymen. They prefer to nickname it “Congress nadige, hallada kadege” (Congress walks, towards pitfall).
Indeed, if one cuts back to the Panchajanya (clarion-call) Yatra across the state just before the 1999 assembly election, or Krishna's padayatra over Cauvery river water sharing, and the more recent Congress walk to Bellary to highlight illegal mining under BJP regime; they were runaway successes not only of the day but are memorable todate.

Upset Congressmen do not mind giving full marks to even RSS' methodology of reaching out to the people through door to door campaign, distributing pamphlets, powerful oratory et al. They also cite the way the late Y S Rajashekhar Reddy built the Congress party in Andhra Pradesh. Now, his son Jagan Reddy has covered 16 districts by foot, they note.The least the state leadership can do is print a few crore pamphlets and distribute it, in order to reach out to the six-crore population, is their contention.

Deficient leadership apart, there is also much heartburn within the party unit that godsend opportunities to expose the wrongs of the State government were being frittered away. A Congress senior had no qualms recalling Yeddyurappa’s style of functioning as an opposition leader prior to becoming chief minister, when he managed to mobilise support right from the panchayat level upwards, ultimately leading the BJP to form its first government in the south. “There was a saying then that when Yeddyurappa thundered, Vidhana Soudha trembled. And even after he became CM, many criticised that he behaved like an opposition man,” said the leader, ridiculing the Congress’ “2-G scam style” of campaign - squatting near Gandhi statue or petitioning Governor H R Bhardwaj.
Come to think of it, the discontentment seems justified.

Apart from the BJP, the state Congress has only the JD(S), a regional party, to contend with. The JD (S) too is in a muddle with its leader H D Kumaraswamy not only facing Lokayukta heat but also being summoned by the high court to appear before it later this month in connection with irregularities committed during his tenure as chief minister. So, what’s impeding the Congress, only Team Parameshwara must introspect.

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