Congress reins in Karnataka CM

Bangalore, July 6 (IANS) Within two months of returning to power in Karnataka, the Congress is caught in squabbles over Chief Minister Siddaramaiah's style of functioning and the demand to make state party chief G. Parameshwara the deputy chief minister.

The Congress is setting up a panel ostensibly for proper government-party coordination. In reality, this is meant to reign in Siddaramaiah as sought by a section in the party which is upset that the chief minister is taking unilateral decisions to corner credit for himself at the party's cost.

The decision to set up the panel was announced by Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh here on his first visit to the state after his appointment as the party in-charge for Karnataka.

Siddaramaiah and Parameshwara are to decide who and how many people will be on the panel and work out its functions for approval by the Congress central leadership.

The demand to keep Siddaramaiah on a leash started within days of his taking over as chief minister May 13 after the Congress routed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to recapture power in the state on its own after nine years.

Soon after taking oath, Siddaramaiah announced a slew of populist measures like 30 kg of rice for poor families at Re.1 a kg from June 1.

Though the schemes were part of the Congress manifesto, Siddaramaiah's announcement that they would be implemented within days, even before forming a ministry, led to heartburn among many in the party.

The result was a sustained campaign for a coordination panel to keep the chief minister in check.

To Siddaramaiah's misfortune, the cheap rice scheme did not take off June 1 as the central government could not supply the required amount of rice.

The scheme, which will benefit nearly nine million BPL (below poverty line) families, will now take off July 10.

The delay and the growing demand for a coordination panel came in handy for the opposition to taunt the Congress and Siddaramaiah in particular as providing the state an "act first, think later" set up.

Even as the Congress claims that the coordination panel is not meant to rein in Siddaramaiah, it is getting bogged down over the increasing demand to make Parameshwara the deputy chief minister.

Parameshwara, like Siddaramaiah, was a strong contender for the chief minister's post.

However, he failed to get elected and this made it easy for the party high command to pick the 64-year-old Siddaramaiah for the post despite opposition to him as he joined the Congress only in 2006 after being in the Janata parivar for most of his political career.

The issue of deputy chief minister's post for Parameshwara was taken up by several state Congress leaders with Digvijaya Singh.

Digvijaya Singh acknowledged that the issue had been raised by several Congress members and said it was an internal matter of the party and that the Congress would take an appropriate decision.

Parameshwara's backers argue that making him deputy chief minister will benefit the party in the 2014 Lok Sabha election as he is a Dalit.

Karnataka sends 28 members to the Lok Sabha. In 2009, the Congress won only six seats with the BJP taking 19 and the Janata Dal-Secular three.

After having won 122 seats in the 225-member assembly, the Congress is aiming to bag more than 20 Lok Sabha seats. It has already started the process of selecting candidates.

However, the party will have to first ensure that the setting up of the panel and the issue of the deputy chief minister's post do not blow up and damage its image ahead of the Lok Sabha election.

(V.S. Karnic can be contacted at


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