The Congress party in Karnataka is facing a crisis as a senior party leader, who was denied a cabinet berth, has started a state-wide tour and has been accused of making statements against chief minister Siddaramaiah, people familiar with the matter said on Tuesday. Former All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary and current MLC BK Hariprasad is conducting rallies, holding meetings with the Other Backward Classes (OBC) communities in the state—a vote bank that is often associated with the chief minister.
The statements against the chief minister during these meetings have now resulted in a formal complaint with the party’s high command, according to leaders in the know of the development. Siddaramaiah, according to party insiders, spoke to Congress general secretary and in-charge of party affairs in Karnataka, Randeep Surjewala, on Monday regarding Hariprasad’s statements against him, seeking action against the leader for indulging in “anti-party activities.”
“Following this, the party high command has intervened in the matter and held discussions with him [BK Hariprasad] on Tuesday. They have convinced the leader to stop making public remarks against Siddaramaiah. However, action against him is unlikely since he was recently made a permanent invitee to the Congress Working Committee,” a Karnataka minister, seeking anonymity, said.
Hariprasad, nursing a grudge over his exclusion from the cabinet, has made several statements in the past. On Saturday, he launched a veiled attack at Siddaramaiah and claimed he was kept out of the state cabinet unfairly. Hariprasad went on to warn party leaders that continued negligence of Dalit leaders could lead to severe consequences for the state. “You cannot call yourself a socialist by just wearing a dhoti, Hublot watch, and khaki shorts inside,” Hariprasad slammed Siddaramaiah, without naming him.
On Sunday, Hariprasad attended a mass marriage function at Talabala in Koppal district. There, he attacked Malur MLA KY Nanjegowda, a supporter of Siddaramaiah, even as the MLA warned that he would complain to the Congress brass against him (Hariprasad) for his remarks against the party and the CM. “He [the MLA] is a scamster. Let him first come clean. Let him complain against me,” Hariprasad said.
The attack on Nanjegowda came after he condemned Hariprasad’s statement against the chief minister. “He was the person who had benefited from the party. Just because he was not made a minister, he cannot criticise the chief minister or the deputy chief minister. His behaviour has to be condemned, and disciplinary action should be taken against him by both KPCC and AICC,” Nanjegowda had said.
Meanwhile, MB Patil, the minister of Large and Medium Industries and Infrastructure Development, and a close confidant of Siddaramaiah, said the party is watching the veiled comments made by Hariprasad about the chief minister and will take suitable action against him. “Hariprasad is a senior leader. He has worked as a party general secretary, Rajya Sabha member, and Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council. He should not have spoken in this manner,” he said.
IT/BT minister Priyank Kharge, however, defended Hariprasad, saying the leader had not indulged in anti-party activity. “How is speaking on behalf of a community anti-party activity? Did he abuse the party? There’s nothing wrong in fighting for a community,” he said.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Basavangouda Patil questioned why the Congress president is not taking any action against Hariprasad. “When I had spoken against my party leaders, DK Shivakumar had said that if it had happened in Congress, he would’ve thrown that person out. Now, Hariprasad is talking against the CM; why is he silent?” he asked.
Responding to Patil, Hariprasad said, “There is no bickering in our party. We have internal democracy, which is why I am speaking openly.”