Bengaluru: The All India Congress Committee (AICC) on Wednesday announced that incumbent Karnataka state unit president G. Parameshwara will continue in his post to ensure his removal does not send the wrong message to the dalit community and other backward classes-a traditional voter base of the party.
In a slew of announcements, the AICC named senior leaders from various castes and communities to take up influential posts in the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) to ensure it does not antagonize any caste or community ahead of the 2018 elections.
Parameshwara, who has served as KPCC president since October 2010, will have to resign as home minister and focus his efforts only on the elections, the AICC said.
“The high command wants a clear differentiation between party and government as he will have to now unite the party to take on the BJP," Harish Ramaswamy, political analyst and professor at the Karnataka University, Dharwad said.
However, naming Parameshwara meant upsetting incumbent chief minister Siddaramaiah who backed a Lingayat candidate to counter former chief minister B.S.Yeddyurappa’s hold over the community believed to be the single largest in the state.
The AICC mitigated this by declaring that Siddaramaiah would lead the party in 2018. The party high command announced that the coming assembly elections in the state will be fought under the leadership of chief minister Siddaramaiah, putting to rest any speculation that the Kuruba strongman might be replaced due to the increasing dissent within his party and growing calls for his removal.
Naming Siddaramaiah as the leader also makes it harder for senior Congress parliamentarian and leader of the opposition in Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge’s return to state politics ahead of the 2019 general elections.
Energy minister and Vokkaliga leader D.K. Shivakumar was named chairman of the campaign committee, former minister of state for railways, K.H. Muniyappa, from the dalit community, was included in the Congress working committee as a special invitee. Satish Jarkiholi was appointed AICC secretary. Former IT/BT minister S.R. Patil was named as KPCC’s second working president—a role specially carved out to accommodate the Lingayat legislator backed by the chief minister.
A section of Congress leadership lobbied against Siddaramaiah to contain his growing influence in the party, especially after the April byelection victory in Nanjangud and Gundlupet, senior members of the party said, requesting anonymity.
Siddaramaiah’s functioning style has angered senior leaders, especially after the June 2016 cabinet reshuffle, in which 14 senior ministers were replaced by first-time legislators.
Patil has been entrusted with north Karnataka affairs while his counterpart Dinesh Gundu Rao will look after the south.
The BJP has a stronger hold on the northern part of Karnataka while the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) have fared better in the Cauvery basin region.