Squabbling in the Congress’ Karnataka unit between leaders owing allegiance to state president D K Shivakumar and former chief minister Siddaramaiah over who should be the chief minister if the party comes to power in next year’s Assembly elections continued with the former calling upon party members to ”first work to bring the party to power”.
Reacting to party MLA B Z Zameer Ahmed Khan’s remark that people of the state wanted Siddaramaiah to be the next chief minister, Shivakumar asked everyone to ”keep their mouths shut and work to bring the party to power”.
”I will speak of only those who are of my level. Everyone should keep their mouth shut and work to bring the party to power,” Shivakumar told reporters in response to Khan’s statement expressing support for Siddaramaiah.
Though the Assembly elections in the state are about 10 months away, the question of the Congress’ chief ministerial candidate has been a point of debate between the camps led by Shivakumar and Siddaramaiah and resulted in a war of words.
Asked if he was issuing the direction specifically to Khan, Shivakumar, MLA from Kanakapura constituency in Ramanagara said, ”I am telling this to everyone. First you bring the party to power, first draw people from all the communities to the party, and organise your community first.” ”As a leader if you have concern for the party, stop worshipping individuals and bring people to the party,” he added.
The Congress state chief, however, stressed that there is nothing wrong if 224 MLAs in Karnataka desire to become the chief minister.
Responding to Shivakumar’s statement, Khan said it was the KPCC chief (Shivakumar) who started the discussion in the party by seeking support for himself in a public forum.
”Who started this argument? At an event of the Vokkaliga community, he asked people of his community to give him a chance. We started talking after his statement. Till then, no one had raised this issue,” Khan told reporters in Belagavi.
He also said Muslim leaders liked Siddaramaiah and wanted to see him as the chief minister again. However, the final decision will be taken by the party high command.
”Ours is a high command-based party. No one else here can take a decision. Other than Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, no one else can decide. I gave my personal opinion. There is nothing wrong in telling my opinion,” Khan said.
Khan, MLA from Chamarajpet constituency in Bengaluru, said everyone has the desire to become chief minister but only the one who can take all the communities along can lead the state.
He also said party as well as individual worship are both needed.
Party veteran Mallikarjun Kharge, replying to a query on the internal strife, said the decision on the issue of the next chief minister will be decided by the party high command.
”It is not me and you who decide who the next chief minister should be. It is the party high command’s prerogative. First, we have to build the party to ensure it returns to power again,” Kharge told reporters in Kalaburagi.
The Siddaramaiah camp is organising the ‘Siddaramotsava’ in Davangere on August 3 to celebrate the 75th birthday of their leader and those MLAs supporting him including Khan, R V Deshpande and others are touring various parts of the state to make the event a success.