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Changing parties ‘common’, says Shivakumar, as Siddaramaiah says no to return of turncoat MLAs

Amidst emerging rift over the question of the party's chief ministerial candidate for 2023 polls, Karnataka Congress leaders take opposing stands on 14 MLAs who had moved to the BJP in 2019.

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Bengaluru: The brewing tussle between top Karnataka Congress leaders, D.K. Shivakumar and Siddaramaiah, over the question of the party’s chief ministerial candidate for the 2023 state elections, took a new turn Saturday, over the issue of turncoat MLAs returning to the party fold.

In 2019, 14 Congress and three Janata Dal Secular (JDS) MLAs had defected to the BJP, toppling the Congress-JDS government under H.D. Devegowda.

Now, while Shivakumar has said that the MLAs may return to the party if they so wished, Siddaramaiah is staunchly against the idea.

Leader of Opposition in Karnataka and former chief minister, Siddaramaiah told reporters Saturday, “No one from those 14 people who left us will be added. I will talk to the state Congress president D.K. Shivakumar about this. I stand by my words. I had earlier also said in the Assembly that the 14 people who left the Congress for the BJP would not be taken back even if a flood occurs or the earth collapses.”

His comments came after Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) President  Shivakumar, said “cheating” and changing political parties was a “common phenomenon in politics”. However, the KPCC chief, clarified that none of the MLAs had approached the party yet.

“Not just D.K. Shivakumar or the Congress, every party would have examples of such incidents. We had brought Pratap Gowda Patil from BJP. Hence, going to another political party and returning is common in politics,” Shivakumar told journalists and added that the Congress will consider any applications it receives for membership and make a final decision based on the best interests of the party.

Also read: This round to dislodge Karnataka CM Yediyurappa fails, but dissidents not ready to bow

A leadership tussle?

The contradicting comments by the Congress leaders comes amidst what seems like an emerging rift between Shivakumar and Siddaramaiah over the party’s Chief Ministerial face for the 2023 Assembly Polls. Cadres and MLAs have been divided in their support to the two leaders ever since Shivakumar became the KPCC president last year.

Recently, several Congress MLAs including Zameer Ahmed Khan, have been projecting Siddaramaiah as the “future chief minister”.

“I can’t call Siddaramaiah former chief minister, but I want to call him the future chief minister,” Khan, who is Siddaramaiah’s close associate, had said at an event that Siddaramaiah had attended last month.

Following this, five more MLAs had also spoken in support of Siddaramaiah as the party’s chief ministerial candidate.

Meanwhile, Shivakumar had told reporters last month that he was not in a hurry to become the chief minister and that his focus was on bringing the Congress back to power in the state.

On Friday, however, a full-page advertorial appeared in Deccan Herald containing articles lauding Shivakumar’s achievements. The ad titled ‘A Life in Leadership’ further fanned speculations of a rift between leaders.

The KPCC chief had issued a diktak to party members to stop projecting leaders as the party’s chief ministerial candidate for the upcoming elections.

The two leaders had also locked horns over the nomination of president of the state youth Congress in February.

While Shivakumar had backed Mohammed Harris Nalapad, the son of Congress legislator N.A. Harris, Siddaramaiah had supported the nomination of Raksha Ramaiah, who was eventually declared the winner in the polls to elect the youth Congress president. Last week, Siddaramaiah had said that he was in favour of a compromise between the two candidates, to allow them to share the position.

(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)

Also read: How Mysuru, the city of palaces, became the ‘city of pandemic’


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