Congress vs Congress Over Key Karnataka Seat, 5 Legislators Threaten To Quit

The tussle has brought factionalism in the Congress out in the open in Karnataka.

From a point where it was reportedly struggling to get ministers and lawmakers to contest the Lok Sabha polls from Karnataka, the Congress has now found itself facing a problem of plenty as well as a public feud in the prestige constituency of Kolar. Five legislators from the party, including a minister, have threatened to resign over the former MP from the seat pushing for his son-in-law to be named the candidate.  

The tussle has brought factionalism in the Congress out in the open in Karnataka, where the party is hoping to do well this time. In the last Lok Sabha elections, it had managed to get its candidate elected in just one of the 28 seats in the state and had also lost Kolar, where it had won every single time – barring one – since the first general elections in 1952. 

Since 1991, the constituency was won by KH Muniyappa, who is now the food and civil supplies minister in the Siddaramaiah cabinet and is seeking a ticket for his son-in-law Chikka Peddanna. Even though the party has not announced the candidate yet, three MLAs from Kolar district, including a minister, and two members of the legislative council (MLCs) have already threatened to resign over the proposed move.

The objection stems from the fact that Mr Pedanna getting the ticket would ensure representation for communities classified as Scheduled Castes (SC)-Left in Karnataka as opposed to the SC-Right, which the legislators are pushing for. 

The MLAs who have threatened to resign are G Manjunath (Kolar Assembly constituency), KY Nanjegowda (Malur constituency) and MC Sudhakar (Chintamani constituency) and the MLCs are Anil Kumar and Naseer Ahmed. Mr Sudhakar is the state’s higher education minister and Mr Ahmed is the political secretary to chief minister Siddaramaiah.

While the MLCs met the Legislative Council chairman and showed their resignation letters to journalists, the MLAs were planning to meet the Assembly Speaker. 

Mr Sudhakar said, “I have all respect for the party high command, but here we want others to get representation. That is the only issue. Since some people are trying to put pressure on the high command to get the seat, we thought there is no point continuing. We would rather sit at home than continue.”

Later, all the legislators decided to hold off on their resignations after being asked to do so by Mr Siddaramaiah and Congress state chief and Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar. Urban Development Minister BS Suresha rushed to meet the legislators to convince them not to resign.

Speaking to NDTV, Mr Muniyappa, who is a seven-time MP from Kolar and lost to the BJP’s S Muniswamy in 2019, said he could win the seat again if given the chance but will abide by the party leadership’s decision. 

“These things happen but, unfortunately, it has reached a peak now. We had all met the chief minister and deputy chief minister. I told them I had lost the elections only once and appealed to them to give an opportunity and I would win the seat. They (the other side) also proposed some names. All MLAs had decided to leave the decision to the party high command and we will abide by it. That was the end and this is a surprise development.”

“I don’t want to say anything on the issue. I am a disciplined soldier of the party and will abide by whatever the leadership decides,” he added.

Key Constituency

The BJP and its ally, Deve Gowda’s Janata Dal Secular, also had disagreements about who would keep the Kolar constituency, with the latter finally getting it in its quota of three. For the Congress, the seat is doubly important because the party swept to power in the state in the Assembly polls last year and has been hoping to make a significant dent in the 25 constituencies the BJP had won in the Lok Sabha elections in 2019. 

Political Scientist Professor Sandeep Shastri said, “This is clearly a problem for the Congress. They lost the seat after many elections last time and now, in their effort to regain it, several groups in Kolar are fighting for space. It will be a test for its conflict management.”

On whether the Congress’ scale of victory in the 2023 Assembly polls, when it won 135 of the state’s 224 seats, also comes with a flipside, Mr Shastri said, “It is about local level unity in the constituency – do faction leaders come together to get their candidate to win or do they use the opportunity to get their candidate to lose.”

He pointed out that it will be critical for the Congress to push its message of five guarantees, which was a key factor in its Assembly polls win. 

(With inputs from PTI)

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