BENGALURU: The crisis triggered by the resignation of Excise Minister Satish Jarkiholi is unlikely to end anytime soon. The Belagavi strongman is caught in an ego battle with Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, with neither doing anything to resolve their differences.
Jarkiholi is refusing to review his decision to quit the Cabinet, while the chief minister is giving up on his friendturned- dissident.
The Congress high command is keeping a close watch on the developments, though. Party elders are expected to discuss the crisis after AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh, now in Bengaluru to chair the party’s coordination committee meeting, returns to Delhi. Singh will also review the performances of ministers and legislators.
“The CM has badly hurt me,” Jarkiholi told Express, while Siddaramaiah, touring Tumakuru, said the minister’s resignation would not weaken the government. “This cannot be likened to the high drama during the BJP rule,” Siddaramaiah said. His statement further upset the minister and pushed him to a point of no return. “He had been neglecting me for too long,” Jarkiholi said.
Siddaramaiah denied he had sent retired IPS officer Kempaiah as his emissary to pacify Jarkiholi. It is, however, not clear who sent Kempaiah to Gokak. Jarkiholi didn’t attend Thursday’s Cabinet meeting and decided to skip the meeting to review ministers’ performances, convened by Singh on Friday. “I have no plans to visit Bengaluru to meet anyone,” he said. Singh is expected to file a report to the party high command after his meetings in Bengaluru.
Meanwhile, Mallikarjun Kharge, Congress floor leader in the Lok Sabha, spoke to Jarkiholi over the phone and asked him what had prompted him to resign. “I have explained my stand,” Jarkiholi said, without elaborating. Sources close to Kharge said he would brief AICC president Sonia Gandhi on the row.
Jarkiholi’s sudden decision to resign has galvanised the anti-Siddaramaiah camp within the Congress, which sees in the crisis an opportunity to destabilise the chief minister. Sources said a senior Congress leader from Karnataka was backing Jarkiholi and encouraging him to drum up more ministers against Siddaramaiah. “Only if you do that will you be taken seriously,” he is understood to have told Jarkiholi.
The talk that a Dalit should be made chief minister is being echoed again in Congress circles. That demand has brought the focus back on Kharge and KPCC president G Parameshwara, both said to be contenders for the top position in Karnataka. A delegation led by Belagavi district Congress president Laxmi Hebbalkar met the chief minister on Thursday night to present Jarkiholi’s case. Earlier, they also met PWD Minister HC Mahadevappa, a Siddaramaiah confidant. Law Minister T B Jayachandra told reporters at the Cabinet briefing on Thursday that Siddaramaiah had spoken to Jarkiholi twice, a claim the minister denied. “I didn’t speak to the CM,” he said in response to Jayachandra’s statement.
With the joint session of the legislature beginning on Monday, senior leaders are keen the chief minister end the resignation saga as it could otherwise provide the Opposition with ammunition to corner the government.