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Congress silences dissent with tactical move

By A. Jayaram

BANGALORE, MARCH 20. The State Congress has been able to put down the open expression of dissent in public forums by a few of the Ministers with the help of a tactical move.

For the past few days, the most articulate dissenter among the Ministers, H. Vishwanath, has maintained a studied silence on party matters. He was both warned and counselled at the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) and All-India Congress Committee (AICC) level not to speak out. The AICC General Secretary in charge of the State, Vilasrao Deshmukh, warned that disciplinary action would be taken against him.

Mr. Vishwanath had addressed the press and accused his colleague, the Minister for Urban Development, D.K. Shivakumar, of acting as a "palegar" and demanded that he should not be associated with the selection of party candidates for the Lok Sabha and Legislative Assembly elections.

However, what has helped in restoring peace among the Ministers is the adroit decision to name the Agriculture Minister, H.K. Patil, as an invitee to the AICC Screening Committee for the selection of party candidates for the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections. Mr. Patil has already attended the meetings and was involved in the renomination of 12 party members of the dissolved Lok Sabha. Mr. Patil had openly come out in support of Mr. Vishwanath.

There is also a proposal to field him as the party candidate from the Belgaum Lok Sabha constituency. Mr. Patil too had his differences with Mr. Shivakumar and another colleague in the Cabinet, V.S. Koujalgi. The latter had blamed him for his removal from the presidentship of the KPCC. Mr. Patil has so far been a member of the Legislative Council and never contested a parliamentary or Assembly election.

The decision to involve him in the selection process was taken at the AICC level, it is learnt. He will have a say in the selection process along with the Chief Minister, S.M. Krishna, and the KPCC President, B. Janardhana Poojary. In a way, the demand of Mr. Vishwanath with regard to Mr. Shivakumar has been met.

Meanwhile, there is concern among party workers and leaders about moves to allot the party ticket to newcomers to the party and also to politics. A group of Youth Congress workers has already complained in this regard to the AICC President, Sonia Gandhi. The group has also opposed the selection of former civil servants who had joined the Congress as candidates. Some of the leaders belonging to the backward classes have also planned to go in a delegation to Ms. Gandhi. They are demanding allocation of adequate number of seats for what they call the neglected castes among the backward classes.

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