An overhaul in Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s Cabinet is on the cards after Congress president Sonia Gandhi apparently told him to make changes in key positions. The CM had met Gandhi on Friday in Delhi to apprise her of the poll performance of the party in the recent Assembly byelections and panchayat elections in the state.
“The high command has told Siddaramaiah to revamp his Cabinet and suggested that changes be made in key ministerial positions along with changes within the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee. Congress’ recent poll debacle has not gone down well with leaders in Delhi and with only two years remaining in the Karnataka elections, it would be prudent to make the ground changes right now, instead of waiting till 2017 where the party could be in a more vulnerable position,” a well-informed party source close to Sonia Gandhi told this newspaper. “Controversies have surrounded him for quite some time now. Some leaders feel that his resistance to accepting the party’s culture is sending negative signals. The recently emerged animosity between AICC leaders and Siddaramaiah is drawing too much negative attention. That is why the high command asked him to meet her. She has communicated the party’s decision to Siddaramaiah; he is in a delicate position.”
Senior Congress leaders like party general secretary B.K. Hariprasad and leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge have urged the party president to overhaul the state Cabinet arguing that the party has not grown in stature in Karnataka since they formed government in 2013. Furthermore, Hariprasad has not been impressed with Siddaramaiah’s style of functioning.
Amid the controversy over Siddaramaiah’s expensive watch collection, and the Congress’ dismal election performance, party sources claim that he is on the verge of losing his job as Chief Minister. This follows a flurry of scathing backroom attacks between Siddaramaiah and senior AICC leaders including Hariprasad, Kharge and Oscar Fernandez. Gandhi and several other senior office-bearers of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) are unimpressed with the party’s performance under Siddaramaiah in Karnataka.
The 61-year-old Hariprasad said at the AICC headquarters in Delhi on Friday that he was not impressed with Siddaramaiah’s style of functioning. Hariprasad criticised the 66-year-old CM by saying that the latter has been “keeping senior party leaders in disregard”, adding that “under Siddaramaiah, the Congress party is not growing in strength in the state”. He added that the party’s poor showing in the bypolls and the panchayat elections is a testament to that.
Hariprasad, a member of the Rajya Sabha from Karnataka, held the CM responsible for the party’s loss in the Assembly Bypolls. “A Muslim leader being defeated there is not a good sign. It sends a wrong signal to the minorities about the Congerss.” He was referring to C.K. Abdul Rahman Sharief’s loss in the bypoll from Hebbal.
Hariprasad questioned Siddaramaiah’s decision to finalise a candidate of his choice to fight the Assembly bypoll from Hebbal — Suresh Byrathi, who was ultimately rejected by Kharge and others to field C.K. Abdul Rehman Sharief. Hariprasad said that the CM was still not accustomed to the culture of the Congress, otherwise he would have taken the party high command into confidence before deciding on the candidate. “He needs to take the approval, there’s no second way.” Hariprasad said that Siddaramaiah’s Cabinet needs to be reshuffled on a priority basis.
Siddaramaiah told select reporters in Delhi that Sonia Gandhi was satisfied with the party’s recent poll performance in the state. He, however, refused to comment on Hariprasad’s comments.