Karnataka Governor Thaawarchand Gehlot will swear in Chief Minister-designate Siddaramaiah and Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar on 20 May. While it will be an auspicious beginning to a possible Congress revival nationwide, problems remain within the state unit of the party despite the ceasefire crafted between Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar. People have become fully aware of the issues between the two during the days following the election results. Every section within the party has been sought to be placated with 18 cabinet posts on offer. Nobody, except perhaps Siddaramaiah, is happy with the compromise that has emerged.
The ceasefire will remain in place till the 2024 General Elections. Whatever the results then, nationally or statewise, the contenders in the Karnataka Congress will feel free to stake their claims to power. This seems to be a pattern within the party – recall the Vijay Bahuguna-Harish Rawat tussle in Uttarakhand. In case the BJP returns to power in 2024, it will certainly do its bit to destabilise the government. All of which does not augur well for the people of the state, as the continuity of development is bound to suffer. Any changes introduced by the Congress under the mandate it has received will also prove short-lived.
The fault lies, of course, in the inability of the party high command to manage these power plays. While the party members continue to swear allegiance to the first family and vow to act according to their diktats, for some years now, particularly after the death of Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel, there has been a leadership hiatus. The level of desperation has increased to the point that long term consequences of decisions are not taken into consideration.
It can be said, in fact, that the victory in Karnataka is more attributable to Mallikarjun Kharge having taken charge as party President, than anything the Gandhis’ did. While the likes of Shivakumar will attempt to leverage his proximity to the family, the matter should be left in the hands of Kharge to resolve if the government is to last five years. In fact, Sonia Gandhi, particularly, should distance herself as much as possible from the party, increasingly becoming a distant inspirational figure. Problems like the brewing rebellion in Rajasthan and preparations for future state elections should be handled by the other top leaders, which would help the party become a genuinely functional organisation. It has been given an opportunity to recover, for which the burden of the past should be shed promptly and resolutely.