DKS is KPCC chief; Siddaramaiah stays at CLP helm

D K Shivakumar is KPCC chief; Siddaramaiah stays at CLP helm

D K Shivakumar. (DH Photo)

A day after a setback in Madhya Pradesh, Congress on Wednesday appointed its key trouble-shooter D K Shivakumar as the President of the Karnataka Congress and restored faith in Siddaramaiah's leadership of the legislature party.

In a delicate balancing act, Congress President Sonia Gandhi retained Siddaramaiah as the Leader of the Congress Legislature Party and the Leader of the Opposition but turned down his suggestion to appoint loyalist M B Patil as the state unit chief.

Shivakumar, a prominent Vokkaliga leader, will be assisted by three working presidents – Eshwar Khandre, a Satish Jarkhioli and Saleem Ahammed. Khandre, the Lingayat face of the party and Jarkhioli, who hails from the ST community, are considered as Siddaramaiah loyalists.

The appointment of Shivakumar comes at a time when the Congress is aiming to make inroads in south Karnataka, an area dominated by the BJP with some strongholds of the JD(S).

Shivakumar is seen as a tough taskmaster and a leader who wields both money and muscle-power – attributes that would come handy for the Congress which has been out of power both in Karnataka and at the Centre.

The reshuffle in the Karnataka Congress was long overdue after the resignation of Dinesh Gundurao as President owning up responsibility for the party's defeat in the assembly bypolls in December last year. Siddaramaiah too had quit as the CLP leader.

Gandhi had had several rounds of consultations with the state leadership and had sent veteran leaders Madhusudan Mistry and Bhakt Charan Das as central observers, who had suggested to split the post of CLP leader and Leader of the Opposition.

However, their suggestion did not find favour with the central leadership who retained faith in Siddaramaiah.

However, Gandhi appointed M Narayanaswamy as the chief whip in the Legislative Council and Ajay Singh Jewargi as the chief whip in the Legislative Assembly.

The appointments to the Karnataka Congress were announced minutes after Jyotiraditya Scindia, who had quit the Congress on Tuesday, joined the BJP. Besides Karnataka, Congress also made appointments to the Delhi unit amid questions raised by a section of the party over the lack of clear leadership of the organisation.

A seven-term MLA, Shivakumar has served as a minister under Chief Ministers S Bangarappa, S M Krishna, Siddaramaiah and H D Kumaraswamy.