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Revolt by 'Benched' Congress Seniors Rocks Kumaraswamy Govt in Karnataka

Karnataka CM HD Kumaraswamy and Congress Karnataka in-charge KC Venugopal. (File photo/PTI)

Karnataka CM HD Kumaraswamy and Congress Karnataka in-charge KC Venugopal. (File photo/PTI)

Veteran MLAs like MB Patil, Dinesh Gundurao, Roshan Baig, Ramalinga Reddy, Satish Jharkiholi and Shamanur Shivashankarappa were kept out of the HD Kumaraswamy cabinet on Wednesday, sending shockwaves across the party circles.

Bengaluru: The Congress, the main partner in the coalition government in Karnataka, is heading towards a virtual split in the state. At least a dozen senior leaders who failed to make it to the state cabinet have raised the banner of revolt and claim that these are not empty threats.

A late night meeting at the house of deputy chief minister and KPCC president G Parameshwara seems to have failed to quell the rebellion and the number of disgruntled MLAs is increasing by the hour, threatening the stability of the JD(S)-Congress government, which came to power two weeks ago at a huge public function.

Veteran MLAs MB Patil, Roshan Baig, Ramalinga Reddy, M Krishnappa, Dinesh Gundurao, Ishwar Khandre, Shamanur Shivashankarappa and Satish Jharkiholi are upset with the manner in which the ministers were chosen by the high command and are holding several rounds of talks to chalk out their future strategy.

Though some dismiss fears of the government collapsing soon, the others don't appear too enthusiastic to save the coalition in the interest of the party.

In a shocking development, party stalwarts like Patil, Gundurao, Baig, Reddy, Jharkiholi and Shivashankarappa were kept out of the HD Kumaraswamy cabinet on Wednesday, sending shockwaves across the party circles.

Feeling humiliated, they are openly questioning the rationale behind benching the seniors.

Interestingly, the leaders who were at the forefront of separate Lingayat religion — MB Patil and Ishwar Khandre — have not been made ministers apparently to pacify the Lingayats.

Shivashankarappa, the 89-year-old veteran leader who wanted the separate religion to be known as Veerashaiva-Lingayats, has also been denied entry into the Cabinet.

Patil, who was water resources minister in the previous Siddaramaiah government, has attacked the party for not making him a minister. Speaking to News18, he said that he would not accept the ministership even if it is offered to him now as he is not a “second-class citizen”.

Even the party emissaries sent to his house in Bengaluru were mobbed by his angry supporters.

Dinesh Gundurao, the working president of the KPCC, who has won five straight elections from Gandhinagara in Bengaluru, is also reportedly upset over the high command not taking a quick decision on making him the KPCC president.

“Dinesh was offered the state Congress president post by the high command. He is the best person to head the party under present circumstances. But deputy CM Parameshwara is floating some Lingayat names. It will go against the interest of the party. Dinesh is ideal for the top post," said a senior Congress MLA.

Most Congress leaders have turned their anger towards Parameshwara for allegedly trying to weaken other top leaders at the behest of JD(S) supremo HD Deve Gowda.

"Parameshwara is not a mass leader. He did not campaign for the party in the recent elections. He won his Assembly seat with great difficulty. High command has made him deputy CM with powerful Home portfolio. He is taking revenge on the leaders who were close to Siddaramaiah earlier. It can spell doom for both party and government," said another senior leader of the party.

He also blamed AICC in-charge of Karnataka KC Venugopal for playing into the hands of Parameshwara.

Speaking to News18, Parameshwara dismissed these allegations. “The decision was taken after consulting all top leaders, including Dinesh Gundurao and Siddaramaiah. It was not my decision. We are trying to pacify them. There are still six vacancies in the cabinet. Some of them will be inducted soon. Blaming me makes no sense,” he said.

Former chief minister Siddaramaiah said the party was united and it was wrong to say that his supporters were targeted. “All are my supporters. We will find a solution soon,” he told News18.

BJP state chief BS Yeddyurappa said Gowda and his son Kumaraswamy were “destroying the Congress” and the party will be history soon if the coalition survives.

Surprisingly, the party high command, which went out of its way to install the coalition government in Karnataka, is keeping quiet over serious developments in the state.

The unhappy leaders are planning to meet Congress president Rahul Gandhi.

"The BJP with 104 MLAs is keeping a close watch on the developments. Any misstep by the party can bring the government down, paving way for the return of the BJP," said a Congress MLA from Bengaluru.

The Congress and JD(S) took two weeks to share the portfolios and form the cabinet. Even two days after the swearing-in, there is no news on portfolio allocation. Currently, all portfolios are held by Chief Minister Kumaraswamy and top bureaucrats admit the state machinery has come to a halt.

Reacting to this, Kumaraswamy said that the media was exaggerating the so-called dissidence and all is well with his fledgling government.

The Congress, JD(S), BSP with two Independents together have 118 MLAs. The BJP has 104 MLAs. Congress MLA Siddu Nyamagouda died in a road accident a week after the government formation. Jayanagara assembly seat in Bengaluru is voting on June 11. The total strength of the Karnataka Assembly is 224.

If 10-15 MLAs from Congress away on the day of budget voting, the government will collapse and the party looks worried about it.

The JD(S), too, is facing some minor rebellion, though it is not as strong as the Congress revolt.

The initial euphoria is gone and it is now leading to disillusionment in the Congress camp. If the party high command fails to keep its flock together, the much-hyped experiment may not survive the monsoon season.

first published:June 08, 2018, 10:02 IST