The threat of a revolt within the Congress in Karnataka by the Jharkiholi brothers of Belagavi was seemingly quelled on Tuesday following a meeting between Congress leaders and Municipal Administration Minister Ramesh Jarkiholi. The Jarkiholi brothers raised the banner of revolt after a faction of the Congress, led by MLA and state Mahila Congress president Lakshmi Hebbalkar, who owes allegiance to Energy Minister D K Shivakumar, attempted to gain control of the Primary Land Development bank in Belagavi.
Following this, the Jarkiholi brothers, who wield influence in the district and command the support of over a dozen MLAs, had threatened to “take radical steps’’ — indicating a revolt within the Congress-JDS coalition government which has a slender majority with 118 MLAs in the 224-member Assembly.
The five Jarkiholi brothers are sugar barons in Belagavi district. Ramesh Jarkiholi , 56, is the eldest. His younger brother Satish Jarkiholi, a former minister, is also in the Congress. Trouble began brewing a few days ago when Belagavi rural MLA Hebbalkar — a former protege of Ramesh Jarkiholi — got her supporters elected as chairman and directors of the Primary Land Development bank in Belagavi.
The brothers viewed Hebbalkar’s move as an indirect attempt by Congress minister Shivakumar to take control of affairs in Belagavi district. Ramesh and Satish Jarkiholi threatened to take drastic measures if their interests are not addressed by the Congress. The party rushed its working president Bheemanna Khandre to Belagavi to reach an agreement with the Jarkiholi brothers and a consensus candidate was elected as head of the land bank.
The issue, however, refused to die down and speculation arose on Tuesday that the Jarkiholi may destabilise the government by taking a few MLAs away with them. A statement by Satish Jarkiholi that “anything can happen’’ fuelled such speculation. However, following a meeting on Tuesday with state Congress chief Dinesh Gundu Rao and Home Minister G Parameshwara, Ramesh Jarkiholi said all was well and their concerns had been addressed.
“I have spoken to state-level leaders and over the telephone with Venugopal (AICC in charge for Karnataka). I will not say much. The Congress is an old party with traditions. Don’t pay heed to false information. I am not going anywhere,’’ Ramesh Jarkiholi said on Tuesday. “We are not angry with the party. It is common for people to be disgruntled in a democratic set up. The leaders have addressed our concerns. It is an old story now,’’ he said.
“There is no question of dissidence. He is a five-time Congress MLA and two-time minister. There are no major problems. He has raised various concerns but he has said there is no question of him leaving the party. He spoke a few things about Belagavi district and its administration,’’ state Congress chief Rao said after the meeting.
“The opposition BJP is trying to destabilise the coalition government. As a part of these efforts, rumours are being spread that Ramesh Jarkiholi will leave the party and 23 MLAs will go away with them. This is far from the truth. Such things will not happen. The government is safe,’’ home minister Parameshwara said. Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy too stated that he perceived no danger to his government. “What statements have they made to cause concern to the government? A lot of this is creation of the media,” Kumaraswamy said on Tuesday.