BENGALURU: Factionalism in the Congress Karnataka unit on the issue of its Chief Ministerial face for the 2023 assembly polls, has come out in the open, with party state chief D K Shivakumar saying legislature leader Siddaramaiah will look into such open statements by some MLAs and the latter maintaining that he was not concerned.
Two more legislators on Wednesday proposed Siddaramaiah's name as the CM's face for the assembly polls.
Ramappa and R Akhanda Srinivas Murthy openly proposed his name despite the diktat from the leadership against making such statements.
Four other legislators had earlier backed projecting Siddaramaiah as the CM's face.
Returning from New Delhi after meeting party leaders, Congress state chief D K Shivakumar said legislature party leader Siddaramaiah will look into such open statements by some MLAs on the matter, even as the latter maintained that he was not concerned.
While a section of party leaders are pitching for Siddaramaiah, who is currently the leader of opposition, for the CM post if Congress comes to power in 2023, some within the party want to see Shivakumar in the coveted post.
Reacting to the developments, Shivakumar said the party high command has said what it has to, and the legislature party leader will look into comments made by legislators.
"There is no seat vacant for any race in the party now....the race is to defeat BJP and bring Congress to power, we have to devote our time for this, if not we will be wasting time," he told reporters.
To a question on statements that the party can come to power only under Siddaramaih's leadership and Shivakumar has age on his side to become CM later, Shivakumar said his only goal was to bring the party to power.
"....am I in urgency (to become CM)? Have I ever said I want to become CM? My only goal is to bring the party to power. I have said- use me as a stepping stone to enter Vidhana Soudha," he said.
Shivakumar had visited Delhi and met party's central leaders, including former AICC president Rahul Gandhi and general secretary in-charge of the State, Randeep Singh Surjewala, during which he is said to have held discussions on developments in the state, organisational matters and open statements by MLAs loyal to Siddaramaiah on leadership issue.
Siddaramaiah, who has played down repeated statements by his aides projecting him as the next CM, maintaining it as their personal views, today said he was not concerned about it.
Asked about MLAs making open statements projecting him as the next CM, he said, "I can't do anything about it. I'm not concerned about it."
According to party sources, Siddaramaiah is likely to visit Delhi soon to meet the party's central leaders.
After Congress legislator B Z Zameer Ahmed Khan (Chamarajpet), Raghavendra Hitnal (Koppal), Ganesh (Kampli) and Bhima Naik (Hagaribommanahalli), two more MLAs Harihar's Ramappa and R Akhanda Srinivas Murthy of Pulakeshinagar today openly expressed their opinion in favour of Siddaramaiah as the next CM.
"Let Siddaramaiah become (CM), D K Shivakumar still has age on his side. Public opinion is also that Siddaramaiah should become the Chief Minister, you ask youths anywhere they are saying the same. So in 2023 let Siddaramaiah become CM, DK (Shivakumar) can get the chance later," Ramappa said.
Akhanda Srinivas Murthy too echoed similar views.
"Once he is declared the CM face, Congress will be guaranteed with 130 to 150 seats in the 224 member assembly."
"People of the state want to see Siddaramaiah as CM once again as he had given good programmes and administration from 2013 to 2018. We are with him, it is my opinion too that Siddaramaiah should become CM, many legislators too are of this opinion," he said.
The statements have come despite Surjewala and Shivakumar's diktat to party legislators and leaders not to make such open remarks.
Shivakumar's brother and Bengaluru Rural MP, D K Suresh on Wednesday said such statements are being made by those who have come to party for the sake of power and no disciplined party workers will indulge in such things.
"The election is far away. we are in opposition now. we should work to strengthen the party. Such statements create confusion among people and workers. They are doing it for publicity," he said.
Reacting to Zameer Ahmed Khan's repeated statements projecting Siddaramaiah as the "next chief minister", Shivakumar had recently said the party will go to polls under a collective leadership, and everyone has been asked to "stay within limits".
While coming out in defence of Shivakumar, former KPCC president G Parameshwara has said the Congress leadership would decide on the chief minister candidate if the party comes to power.
Khan, who has been openly referring to Siddaramaiah as the "future CM", has even offered to vacate his Chamarajpet seat in the city in favour of the former CM, who currently represents Badami segment in north Karnataka.
The move by Siddaramaiah's loyalists is said to have gained momentum following a tweet from Karnataka Congress' official Twitter handle, last month, stating that the Covid- 19 pandemic would have been under control if Shivakumar was the CM.
The tweet was immediately deleted, but not before enraging the Siddaramaiah camp.
With growing political one-upmanship between the two leaders, the issue may become contentious in the days to come for the Congress, party sources said.
Siddaramaiah had earlier headed the Congress government between 2013-18, in which Shivakumar, who is often referred as the party's troubleshooter, was a Minister.