Amid signs of rumbling within, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday night urged the party's Karnataka unit leaders to work unitedly for the 2023 assembly polls and not speak out publicly on leadership and internal matters.
The former Congress president attended the Karnataka unit's political affairs committee meeting, where discussions were held on organisational matters and preparations for the upcoming assembly polls.
Gandhi's call for unity comes amid a game of political one-upmanship between two leaders legislature party leader Siddaramaiah and state president D K Shivakumar over the chief minister's post in the event of the party coming to power in the state.
"The committee discussed party organisation and policy matters. The meeting also discussed preparations for the 2023 assembly polls.....PAC will meet frequently and take collective decisions in the interest of the party. Rahul Gandhi appealed to leaders of the party to go aggressively and unitedly against the misrule of the BJP in Karnataka and at the Centre," AICC general secretary K C Venugopal said.
Speaking to reporters here after the meeting, he said Gandhi urged party leaders to work to instal a people-centric Congress government in Karnataka.
"The entire leadership of Karnataka will join hands together and win Karnataka in the 2023 polls.....unknowingly or knowingly some statements are made here and there before the media. Don't fall for that trap, party leaders should not speak in different voices inside or outside," he added.
Stating that it has been unanimously decided not to speak about internal matters in public, Venugopal said, "There is no leadership issue at all, individual opinion is also not acceptable. The party's new MLAs and the high command will decide on the leader after winning."
Several internal issues have been discussed at the meeting, he said. "We are well-prepared to finalise the candidates, announce their names and win the elections."
The political affairs committee of the Congress met on Tuesday for the first time after its constitution on July 9.
Besides Gandhi, Venugopal, Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar, the party's campaign committee chief M B Patil, Leader of Opposition in the legislative council B K Hariprasad, and senior leaders like H K Patil, Dinesh Gundu Rao, M Veerappa Moily and G Parameshwara attended the meeting.
Rahul Gandhi's two-day visit to the state assumes significance as the Congress in Karnataka seems to be in a conundrum, with many within the party fearing it would implode ahead of the assembly polls.
There is also a palpable worry within the party about a virtual division getting created between the camps of the two key leaders, hurting its prospects in the polls.
Though both Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar have overtly maintained that the chief minister will be decided by party's newly elected MLAs and the high command on gaining majority in the polls, their loyalists and camp followers have been projecting their respective leader, making things messy.
Gandhi will also take part in former chief minister Siddaramaiah's 75th birthday bash in the district headquarters of Davanagere on Wednesday.
Siddaramaiah's supporters have planned a grand celebration on his birthday, an apparent show of strength by his camp.
The event comes ahead of the party sounding the poll bugle despite reservations from a section of the old guard which reportedly includes Shivakumar, who has said that he was opposed to the "personality cult" in the party.
Gandhi will also visit Chitradurga's Murugarajendra Mutt, a prominent Lingayat seminary in the region, during the visit on August 3, and meet Sri Shivamurthy Murugha Sharanaru and seers of various mutts.
During his last visit to the state in April, he had set a target of winning 150 seats and urged for unity among the party's rank and file.
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