The Congress on Wednesday announced that G Parameshwara will continue as the president of the Karnataka Congress, turning down Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s wish to appoint a Lingayat leader at the helm. While it decided against giving a free hand to the Chief Minister a year ahead of the Assembly polls, the party did appoint a leader of his choice as the working president.
Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi had held consultations with as many as 18 top leaders from the state on Monday to resolve the leadership issue. In a balancing act, the high command asked Parameshwara to continue but step down as a minister in the Siddaramaiah cabinet. It appointed S K Patil as a working president and handed over the reins of the campaign to D K Shivakumar, who was also an aspirant for the Karnataka Congress president’s post. The party made it clear that the Assembly elections, due in May next year, will be “fought under the leadership” of Siddaramaiah. As part of the balancing act, a senior leader and former Union Minister K H Muniyappa was inducted into the Congress Working Committee as a special invitee while Satish Jarkiholi was made an AICC secretary.
There were rumours that Jarkiholi might join the Janata Dal (Secular) because of his disappointment with the party after he was sacked from the state cabinet. The Chief Minister, sources said, wanted either S K Patil or M B Patil be appointed as the state Congress president, replacing Parameshwara. Both belong to the Lingayat community and the Chief Minister felt a Lingayat at the helm of affairs would set right the caste calculus.
He was enthused by the party’s victory in Lingayat strongholds of Nanjangud and Gundlupet in the recent Assembly by-elections. He was of the view that the community, which had moved away from the Congress and embraced the BJP in the 1990s, had backed the party and should be given a positive signal, especially since the BJP has appointed B S Yeddyurappa, a Lingayat, as the party chief.
The Karnataka Congress already has a working president in Dinesh Gundugao. An AICC statement said Gundurao will look after party affairs in southern Karnataka and Patil will take charge of northern Karnataka. “Parameshwara will continue to be the PCC president but devote his fill time and energy in discharging responsibilities of the party president,” the AICC statement said.