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After Scindia jolt in MP, Congress appoints DK Shivakumar as Karnataka president

The high command went against former chief minister Siddaramaiah’s wishes and appointed D K Shivakumar president of the Karnataka unit.

By: Express News Service | Bengaluru |
Updated: March 12, 2020 10:06:12 am
Delhi Congress chief, DK Shivakumar, DK Shivakumar Karnataka Congress, DK Shivakumar Congress, Delhi Congress chief Anil Chaudhar, indian express news Congress leader DK Shivakumar. (File)

A day after the Congress suffered a jolt, with senior leader Jyotiraditya Scindia quitting and sparking questions on the central leadership’s ability to take timely decisions and inability to keep its flock together, the party on Wednesday moved fast to set its house in order in two states — Karnataka and Delhi.

The high command went against former chief minister Siddaramaiah’s wishes and appointed D K Shivakumar president of the Karnataka unit.

Three working presidents were also named, ending nearly three months of indecision on the issue of party leadership in Karnataka.

 

 

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In Delhi, All-India Congress Committee (AICC) secretary Anil Chaudhary was appointed the unit president; and five vice-presidents were also named.

Incumbent Karnataka Congress working president, Eshwar Khandre, was retained and Satish Jharkiholi and Saleem Ahmed were named as additional working presidents.

Jharkiholi, a Scheduled Tribe leader, is said to be close to Siddaramaiah. While Siddaramaiah is learnt to have recommended Lingayat leader M B Patil and Zameer Ahmed Khan for the post of working presidents, the AICC retained Khandre, a Lingayat, and appointed Ahmed, a long-time party hand.

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Congress plays practical politics

The decision to appoint D K Shivakumar, who was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate in September last year in a money laundering case and was lodged in Delhi’s Tihar Jail for one-and-a-half months, is seen as a signal by the Congress leadership that the party will not shy away from playing practical politics. It indicates the Congress will not let Shivakumar, a popular and resourceful leader, feel dejected and look for opportunities outside, like Jyotiraditya Scindia.

In a balancing act, Siddaramaiah was retained as the Leader of Opposition in Karnataka Assembly as well as leader of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP).

Shivakumar, a Vokkaliga community leader, was in the lounge of the Assembly when news of his appointment emerged on Wednesday afternoon. Moved to tears, he said, “I knew this was happening. I visited Delhi last week to meet (senior) leaders and we discussed the issue.”

Shivakumar, 57, has the reputation as a troubleshooter for the party — he safeguarded 44 Congress MLAs from Gujarat in August 2017 to facilitate Rajya Sabha election of senior AICC leader Ahmed Patel. His appointment comes at a time 19 Congress MLAs from Madhya Pradesh are being safeguarded, allegedly by the BJP leadership, at a resort outside Bengaluru to try and topple the Kamal Nath-led Congress government in MP.

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Speaking on the condition of anonymity, Congress leaders in Karnataka admitted that the decision to appoint Shivakumar was triggered by the crisis in the party-led government in Madhya Pradesh. A young Congress MLA in the state said, “The appointments were possibly triggered by the situation in MP. There were fears of a repeat in Karnataka, with leaders leaving the party. The lack of a decision on leadership left party leaders in doubt about the direction the high command wants to take.”

An associate of Shivakumar, however, claimed that the new state party chief does not intend to intervene to try and persuade the Congress MLAs to return to the party fold and save the government in MP. “We have Karnataka issues to handle. We are not going to intervene in the MP issue,’’ the associate said.

The leadership issue in Karnataka Congress has been in a limbo since December 2019, when then full-time president Dinesh Gundu Rao quit along with CLP leader Siddaramaiah after the party’s poor show in bypolls to 15 Assembly seats.

All the new appointees are below 60 years.

The party’s leadership in Karnataka was seen as being allowed to drift for several weeks on account of a tussle within the state Congress between leaders aligned to the old guard in the AICC such as D K Shivakumar and those close to former party chief Rahul Gandhi and organising secretary K C Venugopal — leaders such as Siddaramaiah and Gundu Rao.

The race for the post of Karnataka Congress president had seen intense lobbying for several months, with top leaders, including Siddaramaiah, visiting Delhi several times. Leaders such as K H Muniyappa and Rajya Sabha B K Hariprasad were said to be interested in the post.  —With inputs from ENS, New Delhi

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First published on: 12-03-2020 at 03:06:17 am
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