As Congress faces a serious threat to its coalition government in Karnataka, its leaders D K Shivakumar, Mallikarjun Kharge and K.C. Venugopal are engaged in a firefighting operation to salvage the situation.
The Karnataka crisis, which erupted two weeks back, could not have come at a worse time for the party which is witnessing a vacuum of sorts at the top ever since Rahul Gandhi stepped down as the party chief following the Lok Sabha poll drubbing.
In Karnataka 14 out of 79 Congress MLAs have dumped the party, putting its coalition government with the Janata Dal-Secular in a crisis and oscillating between the Supreme Court and the State Assembly.
Ever since the crisis surfaced, Shivakumar has been making efforts to redeem the situation, including through fervent appeals to the rebel Congress MLAs to return to the party fold.
The rebel legislators, who have parked themselves in Mumbai, are, however, not heeding.
Senior central leaders of the party have met in the national capital twice and Venugopal, party General Secretary in charge of Karnataka, and Kharge have been camping in Bengaluru to work with state leadership to save the government.
Party sources said Kharge and Venugopal have been tasked to take important decisions in the absence of Rahul Gandhi taking the charge.
Venugopal came to Delhi on Sunday last and met Sonia Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra over the Karnataka crisis.
However, Kharge has remained available in Bengaluru and has been meeting the senior leaders of the Congress and the JD-S to control the situation.
The Congress has been accusing the BJP of horse trading and poaching its MLAs to destablise the coalition government in the state.
On Monday, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and former Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat insisted that there was no leadership crisis in the party.
Asked about the current leadership issues in the party in the wake of the crisis in the 14-month-old Congress-JD-S coalition government in Karnataka, Gehlot said: “There is no leadership crisis in the party. Soon the CWC will decide on the next party chief.”
The Rajasthan Chief Minister also accused the BJP of being involved in horse-trading and misusing government machinery, and said: “The way in which BJP is behaving is setting wrong precedents. When you are in power and you are trying hard to dethrone an elected government, this is wrong.”
Speaking to IANS Rawat said, whatever had happened in Telangana and Goa is currently being repeated in Karnataka.
Speaking about the defections in Telangana, Karnataka and Goa where several party MLAs have merged with the BJP or others amid the leadership crisis, the Congress leader said, “Defections have nothing to do with the leadership crisis in the party.”
“It is the BJP’s love for the power in these states that they are using money and muscle power to win the majority. The BJP is misusing government machineries, they are not abiding by the court rulings and they are murdering democracy everyday,” he said.
Referring to the Karnataka issue, the former Chief Minister said, “Speaker is the master roaster of the Assembly and no interference of an outsider is allowed. However, the Governor is interfering in the process of the House.
“The BJP is buying the Congress MLAs by promising them ministership or money. By doing all these works, the BJP is mocking at the people of the state who have elected the government,” he said, adding that the Congress will recover from the current mess but the blot on the democracy is going to remain there for years.”