A day after prominent Congress leader L. Chandrashekar joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Congress was dealt another blow as a section of local leaders raised the banner of revolt and declared that they would field a rebel candidate in the by election to the Ramanagaram Assembly seat.
Some of them also ransacked the party office in the town, leading to tense moments. “We are against the party extending support to the Janata Dal (Secular) in the byelection. We are here to protect the interests of the party,” said C.M. Lingappa, MLC, who is the father of Mr. Chandrashekar.
Speaking to this correspondent over telephone, the veteran Congress leader added: “Ultimately, we have to protect our party workers. We will field our candidate in the election.”
He said the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) had appealed to the local leaders to support the JD(S) candidate, but it was up to the leaders to save the Congress’ standing in the region. According to Mr. Lingappa, Iqbal Hussain, the defeated Congress candidate in this year’s Assembly election, will likely be the candidate to contest from their end as Independent.
The MLC alleged that the JD(S) had completely neglected the Congress leaders in the district.
He said a meeting of staunch Congress workers would be convened in Ramanagaram by Sunday, where the candidature of Mr. Hussain (or someone else) would be finalised. Workers from the grassroots to senior level are expected to attend the meeting.
To a query, Mr. Lingappa said even Mr. Chandrashekar’s sons and his family were disappointed with his decision to join the BJP.
Meanwhile, some supporters of Mr. Hussain ransacked the Ramanagaram District Congress Committee office even as they urged the KPCC to field Mr. Hussain as in the byelection.
An emergency meeting was convened at the RDCC office on the Bengaluru-Mysuru highway to discuss the consequences of the party supporting the JD(S) candidate. S. Gangadhar, RDCC chief, chaired the meeting.
Many leaders termed the pre-poll alliance between the Congress and the JD(S) as the death knell for the former in Ramanagaram district. They raised slogans against the KPCC chief Dinesh Gundu Rao and others while also damaging furniture at the office. They also urged Mr. Gangadhar to submit a memorandum to the KPCC and oppose the alliance.
Meanwhile, senior JD(S) leaders expressed shock at the development and said any move to field a rebel candidate would help the BJP.