Congress grapples with dissidence, resignation crisis

Minister D K Shivakumar arrives at Vidhana Soudha to convince the rebel Congress MLAs, in Bengaluru on Saturday.

Water Resources Minister D K Shivakumar, who is widely believed to be the Congress’ Man Friday, was never seen losing cool with the media until Saturday when he yelled at reporters in Vidhana Soudha asking them to move away.

This just summed up the mood within the Congress, which was taken aback when 10 of its legislators tendered their resignation en masse.

Shivakumar, as always, was the Congress’ first responder to the crisis as he cut short the programmes in his Kanakapura constituency and rushed to Vidhana Soudha where the MLAs had camped.

“I’m trying my best,” he later told reporters, accusing the BJP of poaching his party’s MLAs. “The BJP leaders are acting as though they know nothing, but I know the calls being made to builders and the money being collected (to fund the poaching),” he claimed.

But as the day progressed, the Congress found itself cornered with limited options before it. Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) working president Eshwar Khandre said dissolving the government was one of the options. This means the resignation of the chief minister and his Cabinet.

AICC general secretary in-charge of Karnataka K C Venugopal rushed to Bengaluru and held talks with Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Siddaramaiah and other top party leaders to discuss the situation.

The immediate worry for the party is the upcoming session of the legislature for it is wary that the BJP may try to defeat the Finance Bill.

“The current situation certainly is a crisis. We’re hopeful that the likes of Ramalinga Reddy, Muniratna, S T Somashekhar and Byrathi Basavaraju can be convinced. With the others, there isn’t much hope,” a Congress minister said.

Sources say it was too late for a Cabinet reshuffle, a plan the Congress had kept ready - getting some ministers to resign in order to accommodate those who are disgruntled.

“Who knew 13 MLAs will resign at once? They are too many of them to be accommodated through a Cabinet reshuffle,” a leader said.

The party is finding it hard to explain how Muniratna, Somashekhar and Basavaraju - all Siddaramaiah loyalists - resigned.

“When I asked Siddaramaiah about this, he said he, too, was shocked,” the minister said.

It is speculated in political circles that Siddaramaiah is keen to become the Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, a post he supposedly believes will help him build the party after the drubbing it sufferred in the Lok Sabha polls. And the only way the Congress can become the Opposition party is when the H D Kumaraswamy-led government is toppled.

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