DK Shivakumar, the Congress’s troubleshooter in Karnataka, will formally take over as state unit chief on Thursday. The former minister is taking charge amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and what would otherwise have been a massive function has been scaled down.
“I have explained to everyone. We have invited only a restricted number of people. Only those who have been invited will be allowed inside. I have requested the police not to allow anyone else inside. Social distancing will be compulsorily maintained. I am once again requesting nobody else to come,” Mr Shivakumar said.
The event will be held in the conference hall of the Congress’s office in Bengaluru. Arrangements have been made for other leaders and party workers to watch the proceedings through Kannada channels and social media at 7,800 locations.
The decision to appoint Mr Shivakumar as state Congress chief to replace Dinesh Gundu Rao was taken months ago. But permission for the planned event to take over the post was earlier refused more than once by the BJP government in the state, citing pandemic guidelines over political gatherings.
At the time, Mr Shivakumar had said, “See I have been requesting the government three times. 31st (May) was the date. Then 7th (June). Then 14th (June). I applied as per the norms. It was shocking. I was given a written reply that as per coronavirus guidelines, they can’t permit us.”
“We announced this programme more than two months back. We had organised in more than 10,000 places at the panchayat and ward level and had a trial meeting with cadres. But they have refused permission. We will have as soon as they give permission. They are misusing the disaster management guidelines. We will not do inside a room. We are a political animal,” Mr Shivakumar had said.
The Congress leader, who faces corruption charges and had spent time in Delhi’s Tihar jail, was greeted by a massive crowd in Bengaluru when he returned to his home state on bail.
The BJP took over in Karnataka in July last year after the collapse of the Congress and Janata Dal Secular coalition government. Mr Shivakumar played a high-profile role in this political drama – going to Mumbai to try and meet rebel MLAs staying in a hotel there in an attempt to save the coalition government in which he was a minister.
The Congress later did badly in bypolls to seats left vacant by those party MLAs who had switched loyalty to the BJP, following which Dinesh Gundu Rao resigned as state Congress chief. Mr Shivakumar was appointed in that position a while later.