The Congress in Karnataka is a party facing a million mutinies. So it was not expected to be easy for AICC general secretary K C Venugopal, the high command’s new point person for Karnataka, to make the state unit fighting fit before the Assembly polls due early 2018. But his recent actions should give the party some hope. There are signs that the period of indecisiveness and procrastination may finally be over, and the leadership is determined to do whatever it takes to keep the party strong in the state.
He has visited the state twice since taking up the assignment and held discussions with leaders and workers alike. He spent five days in Bengaluru recently, and this time went to the extent of meeting ground-level functionaries and workers in a bid to resolve differences. But these are early days and it has to be seen if he is capable of persuading the high command to take tough action wherever necessary. Venugopal's biggest challege is to help choose a new head for the Karnataka unit.
While there are many contenders, the party needs someone, who on the one hand should be able to challenge the support BJP’s chief ministerial candidate B S Yeddyurappa enjoys by virtue of his caste credentials and mass appeal, and on the other must keep the party united through ups and downs. Venugopal will have to contend with the clout of three strong factions, one of them led by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah himself, while making his pick.
Another challenge is to keep the fighting leaders and rebellious veterans in check. The feud between the Jarkiholi brothers will require special attention as the family holds sway over Belagavi. Similarly, the Lad brothers, who belong to another strong political family from north Karnataka, have been at loggerheads. Besides, Venugopal must find a way to handle veterans Janardhana Poojary and A H Vishwanath, whose actions have embarrassed the party time and again. The Congress leader from Kerala has begun well. But he can’t afford to leave the job half-done.