Karnataka Cong: Brahmin-Lingayat duo to face LS polls

Karnataka Cong: Brahmin-Lingayat duo to face LS polls

With the appointment of Dinesh Gundu Rao as KPCC president and Eshwar Khandre as KPCC working president, the Congress will have a Brahmin-Veerashaiva combo to take on an aggressive BJP ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls in Karnataka.

Rao, 48, is relatively young and considered to be a neutral leader, which the party believes can help him take everybody along. That Rao is not identified with any group is significant given that the party is riddled with factions. Rao, a former Youth Congress president and an engineering graduate, is a Brahmin and son of former chief minister the late R Gundu Rao.

He will be the third leader from the Brahmin community to become the state Congress chief after the late V Krishna Rao, who was hand-picked by the then prime minister P V Narasimha Rao to head the KPCC in 1992. Another leader from community to hold the post was Revenue Minister R V Deshpande, from 2008–10.

Rao, who was KPCC working president, will replace Deputy Chief Minister G Parameshwara, who was holding party post for a record eight years in a row. 

Rao has been vocal in his attacks on the Narendra Modi administration and has been active as AICC spokesperson. “Along with Eshwar Khandre, we will strengthen the party and will try to live up to the expectations of all the leaders and workers,” Rao tweeted.

Speaking to reporters later, Rao said he had been given the responsibility at a time when Congress faced many challenges. “My organisational skills and experience helped me get the post,” he said. The performance of the Congress-JD(S) coalition would be important for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, he said.

Fifty-five-year-old Khandre’s choice is seen as an attempt to placate the Veerashaiva community that was said to be upset with the party. The previous Congress government’s decision to accord ‘religious minority’ status on the Lingayat faith did not go down well with the Veerashaivas, who opposed the move.

Khandre, who hails from Bidar district and is the son of former minister Bheemanna Khandre, sided with the Akhila Bharatha Veerashaiva Mahasabha and stuck to his stand that differences between Lingayats and Veerashaivas should be sorted out. The Lingayat religion decision is widely believed to have backfired, resulting in the Congress losing ground in constituencies dominated by the community. “I will promise you that I will make all efforts to take Congress to new heights,” Khandre, an engineering graduate like Rao, said in a tweet.

Parameshwara welcomed the appointment of Rao and Khandre. He told reporters that Rao and Khandre had enough experience. Rao is a four-time MLA and was the party’s working president whereas Khandre had served as the district party president and as a minister. “Both are competent to lead the party forward and strengthen the party for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls,” Parameshwara said.

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