As if the infighting within the party over the post of KPCC chief was not enough, the Congress in Karnataka is now divided over leadership. With Siddaramaiah and his supporters proudly claiming that the party would go to elections under his leadership, senior leaders like Dr G Parameshwara and Mallikarjun Kharge speak of collective leadership.
With assembly elections barely a year away, leadership crisis looms large in the Congress. While in the BJP or the JD(S) there is absolute clarity on who will be the Chief Minister candidate, the same is not the case with the Congress. While heavy lobbying is underway for the KPCC president post, who will lead the Congress into polls has become a bigger question. With the prospects of Mallikarjun Kharge being appointed as the KPCC chief becoming stronger, leaders like D K Shivakumar who do not enjoy as much favour from the Chief Minister have begun pushing for him to lead the Congress in the 2018 elections.
During an interview with OneIndia, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had claimed that he would lead the party in the elections. "To stop communal forces I have to contest elections. I will lead the party in the assembly elections but the high command will decide on the Chief Minister," Siddaramaiah had said. This is in stark contrast to what Mallikarjun Kharge had to say.
"Unlike the BJP, Congress believes in collective leadership. We do not depend on one person to bring us victory. We will go into polls under collective leadership as instructed by the high command," Kharge said. His message was loud and clear to all those claiming to singlehandedly lead the Congress, including Siddaramaiah. The current president of the KPCC and Karnataka Home Minister G Parameshwara is also of the opinion that collective leadership is the way forward. On multiple occasions, Parameshwar has said that 'the party and all its leaders will work towards victory'. Never once has he agreed to Siddaramaiah's statements of leading the party himself. He has reiterated on collective leadership.
Leadership crisis continues in Congress
Fully aware that the Congress high command would take the Chief Minister's word for the appointment of the KPCC chief, one of the front runners, D K Shivakumar too has come in support of Siddaramaiah leading the Congress. Speaking to the media, the Energy Minister of Karnataka said, "Siddaramaiah should lead the Congress in the upcoming elections. He should also be made the chief minister if the party wins." His statement is a representation of thoughts of one group of party workers rooting for Siddaramaiah.
While one section of the party criticises Siddaramaiah for his working style, his supporters believe that his leadership alone will ensure a victory in the 2018 elections. The biggest challenge for the Congress central leadership is to avoid creating a dual power centre which would let the war of collective leadership versus individual leadership continue.