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Karnataka Rebel Congress MLAs Refuse to Relent, High Command Steps in

File photo of former Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah (PTI )

File photo of former Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah (PTI )

Siddaramaiah, a backward class leader, is finding it difficult to keep the numerically powerful Lingayats, Vokkaligas and Dalits after the cabinet reshuffle.

Nearly 30 rebel Congress MLAs led by two influential former ministers on Friday openly demanded the removal of K Siddaramaiah from the chief minister's chair even as the party top leadership stepped in to quell the revolt.

Those leading the charge are V Srinivasa Prasad, a powerful Dalit leader and party veteran who was sacked as Revenue minister, Kannada cinema superstar Ambareesh who lost his Housing ministry and Quamarul Islam, a powerful Muslim leader from north Karnataka who was also dropped from the Cabinet.

Party sources said party chief Sonia Gandhi called up and spoke to one of the ministers who was sacked to pacify him. Digvijaya Singh, the general secretary in charge of Karnataka has been asked to rush to Bengaluru to pacify the rebels and other disgruntled leaders

Srinivasa Prasad told News18 there was no question of a truce with Siddaramaiah, whom he described as a "betrayer and opportunist". He said, “it is true that many Congress leaders have approached us requesting that we keep quiet. We have refused to shut up. In the name of Cabinet reshuffle, Siddaramaiah has insulted senior leaders like me, Ambareesh and Quamarul Islam. We want the High Command to sack Siddaramaiah from the post of the chief minister immediately”.

He claimed both the BJP and JDS were in touch with him, but that he was not leaving the Congress. in touch with him. Two other leaders, Ambareesh and Quamarul, also continued their no holds barred attack on the beleaguered chief minister.

Speaking to News18, Ambareesh said “chief minister said that he had sacked non-performers. Who is he to say that? How could he make such a statement? If we are not incompetent as ministers, are we not ineligible to be even MLAs?”.

A visibly-shaken Siddaramaiah said he did not insult any of his colleagues by dropping them. “I didn't tell anybody individually that I will drop them and induct someone else. I just told everyone to be prepared for the reshuffle and told them that we need to give opportunities to others in the queue. There is no revolt, a few of them expressed unhappiness over being dropped. We are in touch with them, and I am confident the issue will be resolved soon,” he said.

The situation in the ground is different. With less than two years to go for the Assembly polls, many more MLAs, who were quiet all these days, are now openly coming out against the chief minister. Their numbers have swelled to over two dozen from less than half a dozen in about a week.

To make matters worse for Siddaramaiah, former chief minister and party stalwart SM Krishna has invited the rebel MLAs to his house for a meeting on Saturday. Krishna has openly criticised the chief minister on many occasions over the past one year.

Siddaramaiah, a backward class leader, is finding it difficult to keep the numerically powerful Lingayats, Vokkaligas and Dalits after the cabinet reshuffle. At least half a dozen MLAs from his own coterie have also joined the rebels after failing to make it to the ministry. It has dealt a body blow to Siddaramaiah,, who joined the Congress only in 2006 and is still considered an outsider in the party by most Congress leaders and workers.

Emboldened by these sudden developments in the Congress, BJP leader BS Yeddyurappa is holding secret talks with rebel Congress MLAs and leaders to set the stage for Assembly elections due in early 2018. The HD Deve Gowda-led JDS is also effectively wooing Srinivasa Prasad and Ambareesh.
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Political analysts in Karnataka say Siddaramaiah is facing the worst-ever political crisis of his chief ministerial tenure and that if he survives this time, he will most likely complete a full term. But the rebels are ensuring that things remain hot for him even during the cool monsoon season. The Nataka in Karnataka goes on!
first published:June 24, 2016, 19:57 IST