Despite a semblance of unity on the surface among its main leaders in Karnataka, the Congress is known to be suffering from deep divisions in the state – on the lines of the divide seen in Punjab – on account of a power struggle between Shivakumar and Siddaramaiah.
While Shivakumar has attempted to inject new energy into the party since taking over as president in July 2020 amid the Covid-19 crisis, the core of the 68 Congress MLAs in the state Assembly are known to be more aligned with Siddaramaiah.
Shivakumar was appointed the state Congress chief in 2020 despite being arrested by the Enforcement Directorate in September 2019 over charges of money laundering that surfaced following an Income Tax investigation into alleged tax evasions that took place between 2017 and 2018.
Shivakumar is one of the most wealthy legislators in Karnataka, with assets close to Rs 850 crore declared ahead of the 2018 state Assembly eelections Since taking over as the party president, Shivakumar has tried to loosen the grasp that Siddaramaiah held over the state unit of the Congress by easing out old functionaries and bringing in his own loyalists, even as Siddaramaiah has tried to maintain control by ensuring that Shivakumar does not have unilateral control over the party but is assisted by as many as four working presidents.
The duo seemed to have buried the hatchet during a recent legislature session where they jointly participated in protests against the BJP government in the state and at the Centre over the rise in prices of fuel and essential items. However, there was palpable tension in their body language, with visible jousting for holding the reins of a bullock cart they rode on as part of protests on one day.
A visit to New Delhi a few days ago, first by Shivakumar and later by Siddaramaiah, at the instance of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, has resulted in speculation . Siddaramaiah has denied the reports of him being asked by Gandhi to enter national politics