The Congressmen in Vokkaliga heartland received a message loud and clear in the presence of Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi that the differences among their leaders was not going to be solved.
On Wednesday, May 1, when Krishna accompanied Rahul Gandhi for a public rally in Mandya, local candidate H M Ambarish, with whom Krishna is cut off, refused to share the dais. He instead sat with the public. Rahul Gandhi watched helplessly as the Kannada cinema 'rebel star' expressed his displeasure openly. Ambarish made his wife Sumalatha share dais with Rahul Gandhi and Krishna, along with other leaders. Sumalatha also delivered a speech on behalf of Ambarish.
After the function, Ambarish tried to play down the issue saying that he had to alight from the dais, as election commission would have added rally expenses to his account. But, election commission rules say that a candidate has to bear the public rally expenses if he address the rally or speakers seek votes in candidate's favor. There is no mention of a candidate who shares the dais.
After a fortnight of uncertainty, the Congress men in the Vokkaliga heartland were in upbeat mood since Tuesday. The news had spread that Rahul Gandhi personally called Krishna and persuaded him to actively takeover campaigning in the Old Mysore region. The Congress leaders expected Krishna and Ambarish to sink the difference for the next four days, when the state goes to polls.
But the scene was unchanged on Wednesday. Ambarish came up on the dais first and was waving at the crowd when Rahul Gandhi asked Ambarish to make way for Krishna. When Krishna came on the dais, Rahul received him and asked the senior leader to take the next seat. Immediately, Ambarish made his wife Sumalatha to sit behind Rahul Gandhi and left the dais.
The trouble for state Congress began when Krishna was dropped from the Union Cabinet. Krishna supporters were in the opinion that Krishna would return to state politics. Later, it became clear that Rahul Gandhi was not in favor of Krishna returning to state politics.
The Congress circle was in the opinion that the state Congress leaders like Mallikarjun Kharge, Siddaramaiah, Ambarish, Veerappa Moily were against Krishna getting a foothold in the state politics. Ambarish was projected as the Vokkaliga leader in the Congress, which was not completely accepted even in his home district Mandya. Even another senior Congress leader, G Made Gowda was not happy with Ambarish, but had to patch up with Ambarish as his own son Madhu Made Gowda is contesting from Maddur Assembly segment.
Krishna was upset when he was named one among 60-member poll coordination committee and started staying away from election activities. Even during the seat distribution, Krishna could not manage to get a ticket for his follower M S Athmanand in Mandya. When he managed to get the B-form for another supporter, Ravindra Srikantaiah in Srirangapattana, Ambarish openly rebelled and ensured that his supporter Lingaiah got the ticket.
Congress started feeling the heat when Krishna started skipping important party functions. He skipped the release of the party manifesto and also the Prime Minister's function. He did campaign for some of his supporters, even in Mandya district. But, he did not visit Mandya and Srirangapattana Assembly segments.
The worst came during the media interaction program. Krishna took a dig at all Congress leaders, saying that they did not need him, as each Congress leader had capacity to make 10 candidates win. Any amount of persuasion by Central leaders like Ambika Soni and Madhusoodan Mistry did not move Krishna.
Sensing the trouble in the Vokkaliga heartland, where JD(S) is consolidating its position, Rahul Gandhi called Krishna personally on Tuesday and asked him to join the public rally at Mandya. Though Krishna agreed to participate, the 'rebel star' was defiant.
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