Bengaluru: The likely nomination of Siddaramaiah as the Congress’ leader of opposition in the Karnataka legislative assembly is likely to trigger more infighting and fuel factionalism within the party ahead of the winter session and the December bypolls in 15 constituencies, political analysts and party leaders say.
Though the party does not have an alternative to Siddaramaiah, the rebellion—overt or otherwise—by senior leaders including K.H. Muniyappa, G. Parameshwara, H.K.Patil and Mallikarjun Kharge among others who question the importance given to the Kuruba leader in spite of repeated failures is likely to pile on the troubles for faction ridden party. Focusing resources to resolve its never ending internal strife could dilute its chances to become a formidable opposition and corner the B.S. Yediyurappa-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government over inadequate flood relief from the centre among other issues.
“Factionalism is part and parcel of the Congress now and it only tends to grow when not in power," said a senior Congress leader, requesting not to be named.
With the party high command more focused on getting its own house in order, infighting in Karnataka only likely to grow ahead of the bypolls in which the party has a chance to gain back some ground from the BJP and its estranged ally Janata Dal (Secular) or JD(S).
Several seniors have questioned the chances given to Siddaramaiah, who was unable to retain power after a five year rule, was defeated in his home constituency of Chamundeshwari in 2018 assembly elections, initiated the coalition with the JD(S) and later accused of destabilising it himself, allegedly to settle personal scores with his mentor-turned-political-rival H.D.Deve Gowda and his son, H.D.Kumaraswamy.
Several leaders have accused Siddaramaiah’s direct role in the loss of its candidates in the Lok Sabha polls as well as jeopardising the chances for the Congress and by working against the JD(S). At least four-five of his close confidants were part of the 17 who resigned from the Kumaraswamy-led coalition government and its collapse in July.
“He is not inevitable to the party and the high command must not project him like he is," said the person cited above.
A consultative meeting held by a senior national leader to resolve some of the internal strife ended with leaders bickering among themselves, highlighting how the high command is losing control over its party in Karnataka under Siddaramaiah.
Harish Ramaswamy, political analyst and faculty at Karnatak University, Dharwad says that Siddaramaiah’s faults aside, the party has no choice.
“No one else in the Congress can be as formidable as him to take on the BJP currently," Ramaswamy says.
Though a section of the dissenting voices concede that Siddaramaiah is the only mass leader in the party has and one who can take the fight to Yediyurappa, they also fear further erosion of their own importance under the former chief minister who has been accused of partiality towards members of his own Kuruba community, loyal followers and vindictive against opposing voices.