Congress President Rahul Gandhi is learnt to have asked the party leadership in Karnataka to do all they can to resolve the ongoing crisis and ensure the survival of the state government, a showpiece coalition experiment the party would want to highlight before the 2019 general elections.
The intervention by the high command is crucial in defusing the situation, given the seriousness of the threat to the government and inability of state leaders to find a solution, but the question is why did it take so long?
Belagavi’s Jarkiholi brothers—Ramesh and Satish—have been holding the party to ransom for about two weeks now, ever since their camp suffered reversals in a local cooperative bank election at the hands of another faction said to have the backing of party strongman D K Shivakumar. While the brothers openly talked about how they want an end to Shivakumar’s meddling in Belagavi politics, it’s understood that secret negotiations were going on with a BJP group about the possibility of bringing down the government.
Instead of moving in quickly and ending the dissent, the state leadership of the party, at least initially, did not take the developments seriously. And when it did step in, it found the situation so hot to handle that it decided to wait for former CM Siddaramaiah, who was on a Europe tour, to return. Though a solution is still not in sight, the party may still be able to contain the dissent and keep the coalition going. But the rebellion has exposed the vulnerability of the government.
The numbers are such that even a small group can threaten its continuance. The impending Cabinet expansion is expected to bring in more problems. That is why it is essential for the Congress to send out a message that it won’t give in to blackmail, come what may. The party may try to address some of the issues raised by the Jarkiholis, but it cannot afford to surrender to their whims. How it chooses to handle the belligerent brothers will decide not only the coalition’s fate, but also the party’s own survival and credibility.