The Karnataka unit of Congress has suspended seven block leaders in the Mandya district for anti-party activities and not campaigning for JJD(S) candidate Nikhil Kumaraswamy, contesting from the Mandya Lok Sabha seat, a party official said on Thursday.
"As the district block leaders refused to campaign for Nikhil, defying high command's diktat (order), state unit president Dinesh Gundu Rao has suspended them for indiscipline and anti-party activities," party official Ravi Gowda told IANS.
"As they refused to fall in line and obey the party's order for the cause of coalition dharma, the party had to suspend them and seek explanation for defying the diktat," said Gowda. Mandya district is about 100 km southwest of here on way to Mysuru.
"The rebels were also suspended for campaigning on the sly for our rival candidate (Sumalatha Ambareesh) contesting as an Independent with the BJP support," said Gowda.
The suspended block presidents are H. Appaji of Mandya Rural, A.S. Rajeev of Bharati Nagar, Putramu of Malavalli Rural, K.J. Devaraj of Malavalli City, M. Prasanna of Nagamangala, K.R. Ravindra Babu of K.R. Pet and S.B. Prakash of Melkote.
As part of pre-poll alliance, the JD-S and the Congress have agreed to field joint candidates in all 28 parliamentary seats and campaign jointly to prevent division of votes in a straight contest with the BJP.
Though hundreds of party workers have refused to campaign for 29-year-old Nikhil, an upcoming Kannada film actor, the party hopes suspension of their leaders would make them (cadres) stop from seeking votes openly for Sumalatha and campaigning for her on the sly.
As per the seat-sharing arrangement, the Congress is contesting 21 seats and the JD-S 7, including Mandya, Hassan, Tumkur and Udupi-Chikamagalur in the first phase of polling.
"The block presidents were warned against anti-party activities on receiving complaints from JD-S leaders that they were campaigning for the rival (Sumalatha) and seeking votes in the name of Ambareesh," said Gowda.
Kannada rebel star M.H. Ambareesh, 66, who died on November 24, 2018, was a native of Mandya and represented it in the Lok Sabha thrice, twice as the Congress member and once as the JD-S member.
"Though we all have respect and love for Ambareesh as his ardent fans, we cannot violate party discipline and coalition dharma," Gowda said
Polling will be held in two phases for 14 seats each on April 18 in the central and southern regions and on April 23 in the coastal and northern regions.