New Delhi: A shocked Congress today began a damage control exercise following resignation Karnataka leader Siddaramaiah as the Leader of Opposition in the state after denial of legislative council nomination to one of his loyalists.
The Congress High Command rushed two AICC general secretaries B K Hariprasad and Madhusudan Mistri, who is in-charge of the state, to resolve the crisis which has given a major jolt to the party that was hoping for revival of its fortunes in the state ruled by the faction-ridden BJP.
"It's not rebellion but some unhappiness... that is being dealt with," party spokesperson Renuka Chowdhary said. She said that discussions are taking place and the matter is being handled by the party high command.
Hariprasad, who hails from the state, was a former Rajya Sabha MP. Senior party leader and another general secretary Oscar Fernandes also had a telephonic talk with the sulking leader, who is considered the biggest backward caste face of the party in Karnataka.
A friend-turned-foe of former Prime Minister H D Devegowda, Siddaramaiah hails from Kurba caste, which is spread across the state and accounts for around 12 per cent of total population in Karnataka. Sidharamaiah was a Deputy Chief Minister in the JD-S government.
"It's an on-going development. It will be presumptious to comment on such things till the discussions are going on," Chowdhary said when asked whether the demand of the leader would be conceded.
Siddaramaiah, who is upset over his loyalist former Union Minister C M Ibrahim being denied nomination, said in Bangalore that he has already shot off his resignation letter to party President Sonia Gandhi and state party chief G Parameshwar.
The incident has played out at a time when Rahul Gandhi is in the state on a two-day visit.
The senior Congress leader's announcement comes a day after the High Command denied tickets to his supporters for the June 11 council elections from the assembly. Siddaramaiah had reportedly suggested Ibrahim as one of four candidates.
He said the High Command had assured Ibrahim's candidature but reneged on it and nominated candidates without consulting him.
A section in the party feels that if Siddaramaiah goes, it will work to the advantage of the BJP as the party will lose enbloc the votes of Kurbas. Kurbas, who traditionally voted for Congress once, now vote on divided lines with JD-S and BJP cornering a major chunk, a party leader said.
After the exit of B S Yeddyurappa, a Lingayat leader, as Chief Minister of BJP in Karnataka, Congress has made concerted attempts to wean away votes of that community with even Congress President Sonia Gandhi sometime back visiting the Sidhaganga mutt to woo the community.
Gandhi had shared the dais with the 105-year-old Siddaganga Math head Sri Sri Shivakumara Swami, who has a vast following among Lingayats, a community that had distanced itself from the Congress ever since the unceremonious removal of a paralysed Veerendra Patil as Chief Minister in 1989 at the height of riots.
Lingayats form 14 to 16 per cent of the total population in the state and are mainly concentrated in Northern Karnataka.
There is a view in the party that it is the best time for Congress to regain its hold in Karnataka as the BJP is in "disarray" and hence efforts have been made to target specific communities.
Rahul Gandhi is on a visit of the state to strengthen the Youth Congress network in the state. He will also hold meetings of District and Block Congress Committee Presidents and AICC and PCC members of the state.
The resignation of Siddaramaiah, has, thus come as a rude shock to the party, at this time.