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Ex-Congress leaders in Karnataka will now be vetted if they want ‘ghar wapsi’

New state Congress chief D.K. Shivakumar has set up a 12-member panel to vet those want to rejoin. Applications will be assessed on parameters such as why they left, what they've been doing since.

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Bengaluru: Newly-appointed Karnataka Congress chief D.K. Shivakumar has set up a 12-member committee to vet the applications of ex-party leaders who have left over the last few years but have now expressed their intent to do a ‘ghar wapsi‘.

Speaking to ThePrint, Shivakumar said several former Congressmen left the party over the years disgruntled. But they have now expressed interest in returning to the party fold and have applied for membership.

“There are people from other political parties who have expressed interest in joining the Congress. Many former Congressmen have also expressed interest in returning. They met me. This high-powered committee will carefully vet those names and then we will take a collective decision on this,” Shivakumar said.

The move comes nearly a year after the Congress lost 13 of its MLAs to the BJP’s ‘Operation Kamala’, which brought down the H.D. Kumaraswamy-led Congress-JD(S) coalition government.

The drama that played out later included the Supreme Court as well, which upheld the disqualification of the MLAs by the Karnataka Speaker but allowed them to contest the bypolls. Nearly all the rebel MLAs who contested won.

In March this year, the Congress lost its government in Madhya Pradesh too after its rebel MLAs supported BJP’s Shivraj Singh Chouhan to form the government.

Also read: 3 Gujarat Congress MLAs quit, BJP looks to ‘settle score’ over Ahmed Patel’s Rajya Sabha win

What the panel will do

As the party forms the panel to vet leaders who are looking to return to the Congress fold, former Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee chief Allum Veerabhadrappa has been tasked to lead the committee and manage consensus.

Former Bengaluru mayor Sampath Raj, who is also a member of the panel, told ThePrint that every person who has expressed interest will be assessed on several parameters.

“We will find out as to why they left the party, what they have been doing since and what made them return. We want to ensure that once they have been taken back, they should not revolt and leave as and when they wish to,” Raj said.

“One important thing, those who wish to return, they should come and join us unconditionally. They cannot at a later date seek positions of power or haggle for it.”

New leadership and hope

The decision to form the panel comes in the view of Shivakumar’s strategy of “renewing and rejuvenating the Congress”. In an interview to ThePrint this week, he said he has started an ambitious exercise to convert the Congress from a mass-based party to a cadre-based one.

“It is also important to understand the Congress ideology and accepting how our leadership works. Most importantly, we will consult with our cadre what’re they accept the candidates or not,” Shivakumar said.

Congress sources say several attempts are still being made to lure party leaders — from the ward to the constituency level — to leave the party and join the BJP.

“Every effort is being made to weaken the Congress, but it is a futile attempt. We have a new leadership and hope to bring back the party to power,” said a senior party functionary on condition of anonymity.

“Recently, BJP minister Laxman Savadi said that 20 Congress legislators are keen on joining the BJP. The BJP has been spreading such rumours to hide their inability to handle internal dissidence. On the contrary, there are BJP leaders who want to join the Congress as they have found the state leadership extremely authoritative,” the functionary added.

Also read: BJP’s undiluted power at the Centre has weakened the bargaining position of regional parties


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