The appointment of the former Minister, Dinesh Gundu Rao, as president of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) has come at a time when the Congress faces an uphill task in the run-up to the general elections scheduled in mid-2019.
The change of guard in the Congress has been on the cards for over a month after the formation of the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition government in which the incumbent president of the KPCC, G. Parameshwara, was appointed Deputy Chief Minister. The Congress adheres to the one man-one post principle and consequently Dr. Parameshwara had to quit the post since he preferred to be in the government. It is another matter that to match the achievements of Dr. Parameshwara, who was the president of the KPCC for a record period of eight years, is indeed a difficult task.
Mr. Dinesh Gundu Rao told
that he is confident of facing the challenges that lie ahead, including preparing the party to face the general elections.
“I have been the president of the State Youth Congress for a long period, the president of the Bangalore City District Congress, the working president of the KPCC, and now the president. I am confident of carrying along the workers and leaders of the party and ensuring that the Congress in Karnataka is a formidable unit,” he said.
Unlike what is being portrayed of him being a relative junior, Mr. Dinesh Gundu Rao is no longer a youth leader of the party, having been a legislator for five consecutive terms from the Gandhinagar constituency in the core part of Bengaluru. He has been through thick and thin in the party’s performance in successive elections and believes in the theory that if the party is strong, then the individuals and leaders who constitute the party emerge stronger.
But then, it should be noted that his leadership of the State unit of the party will be put to test in the elections to the Lok Sabha, more so, since the Congress has been reduced to a relatively minor player over the past few elections, leave alone the elections to the Legislative Assembly, when it could garner only 78 seats in 2018 compared to the 122 seats which it won in 2013. In a way, the party is now in the seat of power, by chance, having gained an entry through the back door following a quick understanding arrived at with the Janata Dal (Secular). In the 2014 elections to the Lok Sabha, the Congress won nine of the 28 seats, while the Bharatiya Janata Party won 17 seats and the JD (S) two of them while in the elections of the 1970s and the 1980s, the Congress invariably swept all the Lok Sabha seats in Karnataka.
It is imperative for the new Congress president to win the confidence of the large number of senior leaders in the party and he needs to give up his past associations with some groups within the party, which are inimical to the others. He also needs to maintain cordial relations with the leadership of the Janata Dal (S) which is part of the coalition government, and by doing so, he can ensure that the programmes of the Congress are carried forward much to the pleasure of the people and the Congress high command, which has entrusted him with the all-important responsibility. The future of the coalition government in Karnataka hangs on the performance of the Congress in the Lok Sabha elections, and it is for Mr. Dinesh Gundu Rao to exhibit his popularity and command.
The writer is Resident Representative, The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy, Bengaluru
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