Fissures between the Congress and JD(S) in Karnataka seem to have widened after a Congress leader from Mandya’s Nagamangala, Cheluvarayaswamy, met with Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee President Dinesh Gundu Rao on Friday.
Cheluvarayaswamy and four other local Congress leaders from Mandya were seen having dinner at Capitol Hotel in Bengaluru along with independent candidate from Mandya, Sumalatha Ambareesh, on April 30. The CCTV footage of the dinner party went viral on Wednesday, after which both Congress and JD(S) leaders spoke out against each other.
The internal feud resulted in KPCC President Dinesh Gundu Rao questioning Cheluvarayaswamy and his followers on Friday, as to why they were part of the dinner party with Sumalatha. Congress insiders say that during the dialogue with Gundu Rao, Cheluvarayaswamy maintained that he had not indulged in anti-party activities, as he was against the JD(S) before the coalition was formed and that he was not willing to change his stance.
“He asked Dinesh Gundu Rao whether CM Kumaraswamy and the JD(S) leaders would help the Congress grow in Mandya, or if it was the duty of Congress leaders to do so. He also posed several questions to the KPCC chief, and said that the JD(S) is its primary rival in the region and that he had refrained from offering his support to Kumaraswamy’s son Nikhil during the Lok Sabha campaign as he is answerable to the party workers in Mandya,” the source said.
Speaking to the media after the meeting, Cheluvarayaswamy said that he had attended the dinner party of a friend and that he was not aware of Sumalatha being invited. He maintained that he had not indulged in anti-party activities as he had attended a party that took place after the election was over. “Vote counting is on May 23. There are no elections happening here. Just because I had dinner with friends does not mean I am working against the party,” he said.
Minister for Food and Civil Supplies and Minority Affairs, Zameer Ahmed Khan came to Cheluvarayaswamy’s rescue and stated that Congress leaders had not taken part in Nikhil Kumaraswamy’s election campaign in Mandya as CM Kumaraswamy had not approached them for help.
“During the bye-elections, Kumaraswamy had held a meeting with all Congress leaders from Mandya and had personally asked for their support. This time, the JD(S) felt that they had enough influence in Mandya. If they had asked for support, the leaders would have given it,” Zameer Ahmed Khan said.
Cheluvarayaswamy and Zameer Ahmed Khan were formerly with the JD(S). However, in 2016 Zameer Ahmed and Cheluvarayaswamy along with four other JD(S) MLAs, defected to the Congress as they felt they were being sidelined by party supremo HD Deve Gowda and his son HD Kumaraswamy. Ever since the defection, Cheluvarayaswamy has been a vocal supporter of former CM Siddaramaiah and has on multiple occasions spoken against Deve Gowda and his family members. Congress insiders say that offering his support to Kumaraswamy’s son would have been a bitter pill for Cheluvaraswamy to swallow, and hence, he refrained from campaigning for Nikhil Kumaraswamy in Mandya.
“Kumaraswamy has been trying to sabotage the political career of all the MLAs who had defected from JD(S) and joined Congress. Cheluvaraswamy has openly spoken out against Kumaraswamy and his son Nikhil during the Lok Sabha election campaign. It was only after Siddaramaiah told him to refrain from making such comments did he stop. Besides, several of his followers had openly supported Sumalatha and Kumaraswamy wanted him to pay. Now JD(S) is demanding that Cheluvaraswamy be suspended from the party and Siddaramaiah is not ready to take that step,” the source added.