Former Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah (Photo: HT)
Former Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah (Photo: HT)

Cong appoints ex-CM Siddaramaiah as leader of opposition in Karnataka Assembly

  • S.R. Patil will be his counterpart in Legislative Council
  • Siddaramaiah now ceases to be a member of the Congress Working Committee, the highest decision-making body of the party

Bengaluru: The All India Congress Committee (AICC) on Wednesday named Siddaramaiah as the leader of opposition in the Karnataka legislative assembly, which not only illustrates the high command's confidence in the former chief minister but also its lack of options while it lives through one of it's most difficult phases.

In a statement released late on Wednesday, K.C.Venugopal, AICC general secretary (Organisation) and Karnataka In charge named Siddaramaiah as leader of opposition and his close aide S.R.Patil as his counterpart in the legislative council.

Siddaramaiah will no longer be part of the Congress working committee as a result.

There has been considerable anger brewing against Siddaramaiah over his alleged involvement in destabilizing the H.D.Kumaraswamy-led Janata Dal (Secular) or JD(S)-Congress coalition, allegedly instigating his supporters to resign from the party or working against the interests of the alliance in the Lok Sabha polls.

In spite of the allegations, naming Siddaramaiah as leader of opposition highlights the grip he has over the party, both at the centre and the state.

Though there was stiff resistance against the proposal to name Siddaramaiah as opposition leader by a section within the Congress,many also believe that he was their only option who has a pan-Karnataka appeal and capable of taking the fight to B.S.Yediyurappa-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

"Who else but him?" questioned one senior leader.

But there has been dissent brewing against Siddaramaiah from a section of seniors within his own party that include H.K.Patil, K.H.Muniyappa, Mallikarjun Kharge and G.Parameshwara among others that is likely to dent the party's efforts to reorganize before the 5 December bypolls in 15 constituencies.

The Congress and its estranged ally JD(S) are hoping to gain back some ground from the BJP and its minority government in the bypolls and at the possibility of re elections in the state.

Seventeen legislators were disqualified after they resigned from the coaltion and were holed up in plush resorts in Mumbai that helped the BJP bring down Kumaraswamy and instate Yediyurappa as chief minister.

But signs that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah were eager to get rid of Yediyurappa also now plays to the advantage of Siddaramaiah, who will likely lead the party in the event of re-elections.

The BJP is leaving little to chance in the bypolls as it named eight of its defeated candidates as heads of boards and corporations to remove any hurdles they may pose to the disqualified former legislators in the by elections.

Out of the 17 vacancies in the assembly, 15 will be headed to the bypolls in December. But the disqualified former legislators were worried about the opposition from BJP's candidates who were defeated in last years elections. Many of them had expressed their displeasure about BJP assuring tickets to these rebels and sidelining it's own partymen for political gains.

Siddaramaiah, who heads the Congress legislature party, was eager to be named as opposition leader, which gives him the opportunity not just to tighten his grip over party affairs but also corner the Yediyurappa government and target Modi-Shah duo over the inadequate relief to the state that recently suffered one of its worst floods in recent memory.

Siddaramaiah will lead the charge in the three-day winter session, scheduled to commence on Thursday, over the floods and move a no-confidence motion against S.L.Dharme Gowda, the JD(S) legislator and Deputy Chairman of the legislative council.

"I am grateful to Hon. @INCIndia President Smt. Sonia Gandhiji for appointing me as Leader of Opposition of Ktaka Assembly & Leader of CLP. I am honoured by her faith in me. All @INCKarnataka leaders will work to strengthen the party in &expose the failures of @BJP4Karnataka govt," Siddaramaiah posted on Twitter after the announcement.

"I also thank @INCIndia President Smt. Sonia Gandhiji and former @INCIndia President Shri Rahul Gandhiji for having given me the opportunity to work as a member of CWC so far," he added.