Congress tie-up with campaign firm leads to faction row

Karnataka Congress tie-up with campaign firm leads to faction row

D K Shivakumar has green-lit the onboarding of DesignBoxed, founded by-poll consultant Naresh Arora

Last week, the Karnataka Congress’ official Twitter handle tweeted that the Covid-19 pandemic would have been under control if Shivakumar was the CM. Credit: DH Photo

Mohali-based political campaign management firm DesignBoxed has been roped in to help the Karnataka Congress set the stage for the 2023 Assembly polls, but this has exposed leadership fissures within the party that is eyeing power two years from now. 

Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee president D K Shivakumar has green-lit the onboarding of DesignBoxed, founded by-poll consultant Naresh Arora.

The company has started work on projecting the Congress as “a party that’s doing some work” during the Covid-19 pandemic. This includes the #LetCongressVaccinate and #Congress100CrorePlan campaigns.

However, discontent is fermenting as legislators who identify with Leader of the Opposition Siddaramaiah say the party’s current campaigns are Shivakumar-centric. They see this as Shivakumar’s attempt to brand himself as the chief ministerial candidate. This is an extension of Siddaramaiah’s apparent game of one-upmanship with Shivakumar - both contenders for the chief minister’s office if the Congress wins the next election. 

“If you hire a company to help the party’s image, you can’t project only one individual. It’s not right. Many are unhappy with the way things are going,” a legislator seen as pro-Siddaramaiah told DH requesting anonymity. 

Choosing between Shivakumar and Siddaramaiah for the CM’s post, should the party come to power, is a contentious issue within Congress. 

Last week, the Karnataka Congress’ official Twitter handle tweeted that the Covid-19 pandemic would have been under control if Shivakumar was the CM. The tweet was deleted, but not before ticking off the Siddaramaiah camp.

According to one source, this tweet was put out by a “someone in the party” and not DesignBoxed. “One hundred tweets went out in five minutes using the software. We traced the person who did this,” the source said. When contacted, Arora told DH that his company did not operate the party’s Twitter handle.

DesignBoxed has worked with Congress since 2016 in six other states - Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Rajasthan and Assam. Karnataka is their seventh state and the first in south India in terms of a full-fledged assignment. DH had reported in November 2020 that Shivakumar was in talks with this company. 

A message viral on social media talks of a “big storm brewing” in Congress over this issue. “Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar should know where they stand. Them taking on each other will only hurt the party,” the MLA quoted above said.