Former Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah, on Wednesday, finally got an audience with Congress President Sonia Gandhi. This could help the leader reassert himself over a section of seniors in the party who opposed him being named as the leader of opposition in the state.
The meeting lasted around 25 minutes. It should help douse reports that the party high command had maintained its distance from Siddaramaiah under whose leadership the Congress not only lost power in 2018 but also got nearly wiped out in the Lok Sabha elections this year, losing all but three of 28 Lok Sabha seats in the state. He has also been accused of having hand in bringing down the H.D. Kumaraswamy-led coalition government.
“It was a meeting to thank Sonia Gandhi for the new role as well as discuss political developments, bypolls and party’s reorganisation," said one person directly aware of the developments.
Siddaramaiah had an almost unchallenged run during 2013-18 and tightened his grip over the party during the 14 month old coalition government as well. This was further bolstered when Dinesh Gundu Rao, a person considered close to Siddaramaiah, was named president of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC).
After Rahul Gandhi stepped down as party president, a section of the ‘old guard’ tried to take reign in Siddaramaiah, still considered an outsider by a large section of the Congress in Karnataka.
H.K. Patil, Mallikarjun Kharge, G.Parameshwara, K.H.Muniyappa and D.K.Shivakumar among others unsuccessfully tried to challenge Siddaramaiah and his growing dominance within the party.
At least five out of the 17 disqualified legislators in the state are considered loyalists of Siddaramaiah, raising suspicions on his role in the resignation drama that brought down the coalition government and helped B.S.Yediyurappa-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) come to power.
Siddaramaiah is also expected to play a key role in selecting candidates for the 15 bypolls, scheduled on 5 December in Karnataka. Siddaramaiah will also campaign for the party in the run up to the Maharashtra elections and bypolls in Kerala.