The BJP women’s wing has been carrying on a sustained campaign against Venugopal in Karnataka.
New Delhi: Done with Gujarat, a rejuvenated Congress Party under president Rahul Gandhi is expected to focus on Karnataka where Assembly polls are due next year. The first priority is to ensure that the BJP is given no room to embarrass the grand old party. Not only is the Siddaramaiah government fighting anti-incumbency in the state, it is also facing increased violence in the coastal districts, always a cauldron of communal violence.
But the party’s biggest challenge will be posed by the repeated attacks on not just the chief minister but also the new man in charge, AICC’s Karnataka in-charge, K.C. Venugopal, raising the prospect of a rejig of its team ahead of the crucial state polls, sources said.
It was as recent as July that the party high-command replaced Digvijay Singh, general secretary in-charge of Karnataka, following the party’s mishandling of the situation after Goa polls.
However, Mr Singh’s replacement, Mr Venugopal, facing charges in a sexual harassment case in his home state Kerala, is causing embarrassment to the party. The Alappuzha MP was indicted by a commission formed by the state government to look into the charges. The report was presented before the state Assembly last month.
The fact that the commission of inquiry had been ordered by none other than Congress chief minister Oomen Chandy during his term makes the case more damaging, sources said.
The BJP women’s wing has been carrying on a sustained campaign against Mr Venugopal in Karnataka. The Mahila Morcha has been turning up at events attended by Mr Venugopal shouting slogans like “Bhrashtachari Mukhyamantry, Atyachari Prabhari (Corrupt chief minister and exploiter in-charge)”. The LDF government in Kerala has promised action in the matter.
Questioned on whether a change of guard in Karnataka Congress was imminent, Madhu Yashki Goud, AICC secretary in-charge of party affairs in Karnataka, said the new team for the polls was formulated as early as July and this was the team under whose leadership the Assembly polls would be fought.
“All charges are politically motivated and they are very old,” he added.
Sources, however, said that many senior leaders of Karnataka Congress have expressed apprehensions about the situation to the AICC leadership. However, no initiative has been taken as of now. One explanation for this is the party’s total focus on the Gujarat campaign.
Though refusing to come on record, a senior leader said that a change in the state unit cannot be ruled out following Mr Gandhi taking charge as the Congress chief. Mr Venugopal, incidentally, is perceived to be close to the new party boss.
The source added that the extremely aggressive campaign by the BJP in Gujarat has made it evident that it will leave no stone unturned in Karnataka too, and would make this a big issue. Despite repeated attempts, Mr Venugopal remained unavailable for comment.
The names being considered by the Congress for his replacement include senior leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, R.C. Kuntia, Telangana Congress in-charge, and Avinash Pandey, in-charge of Rajasthan.