Bengaluru: In a sign that the Congress top brass were finally sitting and up taking notice of the growing public anger against the Siddaramaiah government’s perceived inaction following four rapes in as many months, the party sent its state in charge for some urgent fire-fighting.
AICC general secretary, Digvijay Singh has been holding closed door, one on one sessions with the party’s senior leaders and ministers instead of the usual group meetings at the Kumara Krupa guest house since Wednesday, with senior party insiders saying that Mr Singh may have finally also begun the exercise of “identifying” the non-performing ministers in CM Siddaramaiah’s cabinet.
During earlier visits, Mr Singh has repeatedly said that any reshuffle of cabinet was the prerogative of the chief minister.
This time, the public outcry against the deteriorating law and order situation in the state capital and rurban centres like Tirthahalli and Anekal, had caught the attention of the AICC. Speaking exclusively to media, a senior privy to the discussions disclosed that Mr Singh’s focus was on governance with particularly pointed questions on the rape cases.
Primarily, Mr Singh asked three questions to every leader whom he summoned on Wednesday to the Kumar Krupa Guest House.
The first question was how the state government is doing? The second question was whether the government was sending the right kind of signals to the public.
And lastly, the Congressmen were asked to name the leaders because of whom the party was at the receiving end of public ire.
The leader added that though most of the leaders did not name any leader in particular, most laid the blame at the door of Chief Minister, Siddaramaiah, Home Minister, K.J. George, Primary and Secondary education minister Kimmane Ratnakar for their indifferent handling of their departments.
“In these trying times, our leaders need to be more sensitive while they make comments in public. Although they are trying their best to be sensitive, they need to bet even more so.
Persistence is another quality which they require to tackle these kind of sensitive issues in the long run too,” the leader pointed out.
A section of leaders also observed that there was a yawning chasm between Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and a section of party’s senior leaders, although they had been in the party for many years.
“Both Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and the other group that has been kept at a distance from Mr Siddaramaiah should jointly make an effort to bridge this gap, otherwise the party will forever remain a divided house,” another senior leader told this newspaper.
According to him, although, Mr Singh did not express his own views on the comments that were made, he was apparently taking mental notes about it.
Box: A group of youth leaders led by Pramod Shankar submitted a memorandum to Mr Singh seeking the expulsion of food and civil supplies minister, Dinesh Gundurao from the cabinet over his controversial tweet after the party’s debacle in the Maharashtra and Haryana assembly polls.
While former Chief Minister and Shimoga MP B.S.Yeddyurappa took out a padayatra in some villages seeking the people’s blessings for his son and party candidate, B.Y. Raghavendra, former minister, M.P .Renukacharya took out a bike rally in Shikaripur town to impress voters.
The flurry of activity continued as curtains came down on campaigning for the Shikaripur bypoll on Tuesday. Monday evening saw both Mr.Renukacharya and former MLA, Belur Gopalakrishna even join villagers working in their fields in Anjanapura to curry favour with them.
The Congress meanwhile, got a shot in the arm, with former minister, Goolihatti Shekhar, who had filed his nomination papers as an independent, doing a sudden turnaround and announcing his support for the party’s official candidate. Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, he had little to say about his change of mind.
Congress candidate, H.S.Shantaveerappa Gowda, whose prospects are now looking up as a result, did a last round of campaigning in Shikaripur town accompanied by forest minister, B.Ramanath Rai, AICC member, Manjunath Bhandary, MLC, Gayatri Shanthe Gowda, former MLC, Prafulla Madhukar and Shimoga MLA, K.B.Prasanna Kumar .
His rival, Mr Raghavendra, too took out a padayatra in Shiralkoppa town with his own party leaders and workers, shouting slogans and promising a better tomorrow to the voters.