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LS polls: Worried Congress looks to solve Karnataka puzzle

By Renu Mittal in New Delhi
February 18, 2009 22:20 IST
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The Congress is all set to appoint Siddharamiah as its new Legislative Party leader in Karnataka, in place of Kharge who is tipped to make it to the apex decision making body of the Congress party, the Congress Working Committee.

While Siddharamiah belongs to the Other Backward Classes category--a shepherd, Kharge belongs to the Scheduled Caste.

With the Bharatiya Janata Party holding the upper hand in Karnataka where internal strife has killed the Congress chances of doing well in the elections, the party leadership is making one more attempt to put its house in order and buy peace amongst the warring factions.

But Siddharamiah who joined the Congress from the Janata Dal-Secular and is known to be a powerful leader, has been told that he is being adjusted as the CLP leader but with certain conditions.

He has been told not to oppose the ongoing attempts by the party leadership to forge an alliance or a seat sharing understanding with Deve Gowda's JD-S and instead hold his silence. Siddharamiah is known to be a bitter critic of the Gowdas and left their party after a string of differences.

Congress eyeing JD-S alliance?

With the United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi serious about bringing in fresh allies into the Congress kitty, highly placed sources disclose that the former state chief minister Kumaraswamy, the son of Deve Gowda flew into Delhi last week and had a secretive meeting with Sonia, the spadework for which had already been done earlier by her aides.

This is a meeting which has been described by a senior leader as positive as Kumaraswamy has shown his interest in tying up with the Congress for the coming Lok Sabha polls as the only sure fire bet of gaining an advantage over the BJP in the state.

A senior Congress leader who has been speaking to prospective allies on behalf of Sonia Gandhi however made it clear that the party would deny any talk of a Kumaraswamy-Sonia meeting as the dialogue has still not been cemented and talks are still on.

With Deve Gowda himself making public statements of going alone in Karnataka while son Kumaraswamy has been keen on an alliance, the father-son duo appear to be working at cross purposes, at least on the face of it.

But senior Congress sources aver that the two work pretty much in tandem and use any political situation to garner the maximum benefits for themselves and their party.

A section of the leadership admits that there are serious differences in the Congress party over whether to have an alliance with the JD-S or to go it alone, but a survey conducted by a party functionary has indicated that the majority are in favour of an alliance with the Gowdas.

Sources say that serious efforts are afoot to clinch the alliance.

There are already a plethora of senior leaders from Karnataka in the AICC and the party now hopes that some of them would now use their surplus energy to contest the coming Lok Sabha elections rather than mastermind campaigns against each other.

Amongst them are Veerapa Moily, Oscar Fernandes, Margaret Alva, Hari Prasad, Janardhan Poojary, S.M.Krishna, etc.

In the run up to the Lok Sabha polls, Sonia Gandhi is said to have instructed her aides to ensure that senior leaders who were angry, upset, sidelined, ignored are brought back into the mainstream of the state politics and given responsibilities to derive the maximum advantage for the party from their presence. This is to minimize their damage control potential as well as use them for constructive party work.

Narayan Rane all set to get an important post

While a sulking Siddharamiah is being adjusted in Karanataka, in Maharashtra the powerful Maratha leader Narayan Rane who joined the Congress from the Shiv Sena is also set to get an important post in the party and the government. His suspension has recently been revoked and he is now all set to get an important responsibility.

A section of the Congress was of the view that the best way to downsize Sharad Pawar would have been to make Rane the Maharashtra chief minister, but Sonia Gandhi's aides had other ideas and instead comparatively inexperienced Ashok Chavan was made the chief minister.

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Renu Mittal in New Delhi