Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Siddaramaih, right choice for Karnataka

  • Electing CLP leaders best course available to the Congress
  • Organisational reforms started by PV, Rahul should be taken forward

The Congress high command has successfully resolved the issue of leadership in Karnataka and correctly decided that Siddaramaiah would be the chief minister and DK Shivakumar his deputy besides keeping the position of the PCC chief till general elections in 2024. Siddaramaiah who enjoys goodwill across all regions, castes and classes is known for his statesmanship and fair play. Siddaramaiah is going to take the oath tomorrow, Saturday, along with Shivakumar and some ministers. The accord brokered by the party’s high command in Delhi should continue to hold good in Bengaluru for the next five years so that the people get the government they deserve.

Kharge with Shivkumar and Siddaramaiah on either side

No one person can take credit for the Congress victory in Karnataka. There are many who claim a part in the success and rightly so. There are many factors that contributed to the Congress win. While the percentage of BJP vote share remained intact at 36, the percentage of the Congress vote has gone up thanks to the steep fall in JD(S) fortunes. A number of voluntary organizations which are interested in protecting democracy, constitutional values and the republic have worked for months together among the people of Karnataka to sensitize them on issues such as communal divide, dictatorial tendencies and the drive for centralization.

The Congress has a peculiar problem of leadership in almost every state where it is a force to reckon with. There would be at least two formidable contenders for the top mantle. If one gets the top job, the  other becomes a rebel.  Rajashtan has been witnessing an ugly quarrel between Chief Minister Gehlot and his former deputy Sachin Pilot. The latter is organizing a movement of sorts against the government headed by his own party. Such a development is possible only in the Congress.  You can oppose the chief minister and yet stay in the party. In Madhya Pradesh, the problem was resolved when Jyotiraditya Scindia walked out of the party with 20 MLAs and joined the BJP causing the fall of Kamalnath government. In Chhattisgarh, Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and Health Minister TS Singhdeo have been pulling on together with no major controversies bothering the party leadership in Delhi but discord is very much there. Earlier there was a conflict between Captain Amarinder Singh and Navjot Singh Siddhu in Punjab forcing the Congress high command to act against the chief minister. That exercise has resulted in the Congress getting wiped out in Punjab causing the emergence of AAP.

Rahul with Siddaramaiah and Shivkumar. He backed Siddaramaiah.

 In Telangana which is expected to have elections in December, there are many seniors who aspire to sit in the chief minister’s chair though none of them can help the party beat the incumbent TRS. It can happen only if all of them collectively work together forgetting their differences. PCC President Revanth Reddy and CLP leader Bhatti Vikramarka are the two prominent leaders doing walkathon. Now that Karnataka is out of the way, the focus of the Congress leadership would be on Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Telangana and Chhattisgarh. Even if they win in these states, the problem of electing the leaders of CLPs would bother the leaders.

This problem has its genesis in the era dominated by Indira Gandhi. After she overwhelmed the Syndicate, she had decided to discourage state leaders from consolidating their position and becoming a threat to her leadership. She would not allow the chief ministers to settle down to become heavyweights and would always lend her ear to the complaints against them by the dissidents. Soon after a chief minister was sworn in, a dissident leader would take a flight to Delhi to complain against the new chief minister. We had four chief ministers in  undivided AP during 1978-83 and three more between 1989-94 helping NTR both the times. Rajiv Gandhi as Congress president announced in a media conference in 1990 that Karnataka is going to have a new chief minister tomorrow giving the then chief minister veerendra Patil the shock of his life. Patil promptly resigned and so did Dr. Marri Channa Reddy in AP after a couple of weeks taking the hint.

In order to see that any leader does not stabilize himself, the party high command would give equal importance to both PCC President and CLP leader. In some states there are three or four prominent leaders enjoying access to the high command. There are both positive and negative points in this approach.

Luckily there are only two serious contenders for the job of Karnataka chief minister although Lingayat leaders and Dalit leaders insisted on getting their due. Collective leadership is important but the chief minister should be allowed to be elected by the MLAs. The saving grace in the case of Karnataka is that Siddaramaiah happens to the choice of the MLAs who voted for him in a secret ballot and the party high command went by the decision of MLAs. The election was informal and no canvassing was done as it was not on cards. Ballot is the only way for the Congress to elect, not select, its legislature party leaders in future. The reforms PV started during his tenure but gave up during Tirupati plenary and restarted by Rahul Gandhi but abandoned after some hiccups should be given a try again more sincerely to have organizational elections. The election of Kharge as the AICC President  should be taken forward to give internal democracy a fair chance.

K. Ramachandra Murthy
K. Ramachandra Murthy
Founder & Editor


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