Back in control, Siddaramaiah faces bypoll challenge

Siddaramaiah

The Congress will resume preparations for the December 5 bypolls, which are seen as former chief minister Siddaramaiah’s first major challenge after the high command reposed its faith in him despite some leaders seeking his ouster by questioning his credibility. 

Last week, Siddaramaiah was appointed the Leader of the Opposition (LoP) in the Legislative Assembly amid stiff resistance from a section of party leaders. He is also the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader. 

Now, Siddaramaiah is virtually in full control of the party - his key aide S R Patil is the Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council whereas Dinesh Gundu Rao, who is seen as close to him, is the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president.

On Tuesday, AICC general secretary in-charge of Karnataka, K C Venugopal will chair a meeting to take stock of the party’s preparedness for the crucial bypolls. The Congress will fight the polls under Siddaramaiah’s watch. 

But a section of senior leaders within the party argued with the high command that Siddaramaiah had had his chance: He was chief minister for a full five-year term and the party lost the 2018 Assembly polls. Still, Siddaramaiah was appointed CLP leader and inducted into the Congress Working Committee. The party lost the 2019 Lok Sabha polls badly in the state. And some of Siddaramaiah’s loyal MLAs defected, causing the fall of the coalition. None of this deterred the high command from reposing its faith in Siddaramaiah. 

“Siddaramaiah’s mass appeal is unmatched,” one leader said. “Siddaramaiah might have lost from the Chamundeshwari Assembly segment and his Ahinda plan may have failed, but not many can attack the BJP so directly like he can.”

According to the leader quoted above, a “mild threat” by Siddaramaiah to the party’s leadership was one of the factors that worked in his favour. “He did indicate that he would leave and some blackmailing was involved with MLAs loyal to him indulging in a show of strength seeking his appointment as the LoP.”

Siddaramaiah has been tasked with rebuilding all that the party has lost, including the support of the minorities, backward classes and Dalits (Ahinda). 

It is said that Siddaramaiah is keen to establish himself again in the Old Mysuru region because “he’s like a fish out of water in the Mumbai-Karnataka region.” The Varuna Assembly constituency, represented by his son Yathindra, seems to be the only viable opening. “Then, what will his son do?”

 

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