Rahul Gandhi, president of the Indian National Congress (INC) party, pauses during a news conference at the party’s headquarters in New Delhi, India. (Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg)

Congress Crisis: Venugopal To Meet Party Leaders, MLAs In Karnataka Amid Reports Of Rift

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Venugopal To Meet Party Leaders, MLAs In Karnataka

Amid reports that a cabinet expansion or reshuffle is on the cards in a bid to save the Congress-JD(S) coalition government in Karnataka, AICC general secretary KC Venugopal will hold a series of meetings with party leaders and legislators in the city today.

Venugopal, who reached here late Tuesday night, will meet Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy, Country Liberal Party leader and Coordination Committee chief Siddaramaiah, Deputy Chief Minister G Parameshwara and Pradesh Congress chief Dinesh Gundu Rao, sources said.

Venugopal will then hold a meeting with Congress ministers in the coalition government, they said, adding he will also take part in the CLP meeting scheduled in the evening.

Voices of dissent are gaining ground within the Congress in Karnataka as two of its MLAs met former chief minister SM Krishna at his Bengaluru residence on Sunday.

The coalition government in the southern state has been fragile since its inception with reports of its collapse surfacing every then and now.

Venugopal's visit to the city gains significance as the coalition leaders are planing for an expansion or a reshuffle of the Kumaraswamy cabinet, aimed at saving the government.

While, Siddaramaiah on Tuesday had said it would be an expansion to fill three vacant posts, there are also reports quoting top sources in the government that some ministers may be asked to step down to make way for disgruntled legislators.

Out of 34 cabinet ministers, the Congress and the JD(S) have shared 22 and 12, respectively.

Currently, three posts are vacant, two from the JD(S) and one from the Congress.

Even as coalition leaders, including the chief minister, struggled to save the government, ministerial aspirants started lobbying on Tuesday.

Many Congress legislators have expressed strong reservation against priority being given to the disgruntled, sidelining loyalists.

With growing number of aspirants and less posts in hand, it remains to be seen how Venugopal and Congress leaders manage the situation.

In the meeting, Venugopal and the state party leadership may ask few ministers to make way for others, sources said. However, a section of party leaders believe that a cabinet expansion may be suitable at this moment, as any attempt for reshuffle may further worsen the situation.

Rajasthan Congress Executive Committee To Meet Today

The state executive of Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee will meet today and would endorse the CWC resolution urging Rahul Gandhi to continue as party chief and steer the party out of its current state, a top party leader said.

The meeting will be chaired by PCC Chief and Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot, he said.

This will be the first meeting of the party after the Congress's drubbing in the Lok Sabha elections. The Congress failed to win a single Lok Sabha seat in Rajasthan despite a winning the assembly elections there just months back.

Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, AICC general secretary in charge of Rajasthan Avinash Pande and other senior leaders of the party will attend the meeting which is scheduled at 2:30 p.m.

Rajasthan ministers Udai Lal Anjana and Ramesh Meena had demanded introspection and a detailed analysis of the defeat.

Agriculture minister Lalchand Kataria on Sunday announced his "resignation" from the state cabinet.

A purported press release, circulated on social media, said he was resigning over the poor performance by the party in the elections.

But there has been no confirmation on this by the Chief Minister's Office or the Raj Bhawan, and the minister has been unreachable.

Ashok Gehlot faces accusation that he concentrated on his son Vaibhav Gehlot's Jodhpur constituency, neglecting others.

Veerappa Moily Calls Poll Setback A 'Passing Phase', Wants Rahul To Continue

Backing the continuation of Rahul Gandhi as the Congress president, senior party leader M Veerappa Moily termed the Lok Sabha election setback of the party as a "passing phase".

The former Union minister said the outcome of one or two elections could not be a pointer to the future prospects of the party, which had seen many ups and downs in its long history.

Describing Gandhi as the "inspiration" for the party, Moily said it was not appropriate for him to quit as the Congress chief.

"Just because Modi has won...that is not a criteria to leave the presidentship. After all, ups and downs are common for the Congress party. We have seen them many a time," he told PTI.

Stating that Gandhi should not insist on his resignation, he said he should "continue to guide the destiny of the party and the nation". "Apart from legacy, on his own personality, he is the most competent person to lead the party," Moily said.

"He is the right person to guide the Congress family. He should not think in terms of the Gandhi family, he should think of the Congress family.... One election cannot mar the glory of 135 years of the Congress," Moily said.

The senior leader also denied that the party was facing an "existential threat".

"The Lok Sabha election setback is a passing phase. One or two elections cannot determine the future of the Congress," he said.

Rahul Is The Best Person To Lead Congress, Says Tharoor

Rahul Gandhi is the best person to pull the Congress out of its predicament following the setback in the Lok Sabha polls, party leader Shashi Tharoor said while declaring that his party is "alive and kicking" and it is too premature to write its obituary.

The Congress has no time to sit and lick its wounds as it must immediately pick itself up for the upcoming state elections, Tharoor told PTI.

Tharoor, who scored an electoral hat-trick by winning from the Thiruvanathapuram seat in the Lok Sabha polls, also said he is ready to take on the job of the Congress' leader in the Lok Sabha if offered the post.

Asked about Gandhi's offer to resign and if he was still Congress' best bet in terms of leadership, Tharoor said attempts in the media to pin all the blame for the party's electoral setback on his shoulders are simplistic and unfair.

"I think it does a disservice to the very complex challenges facing the Congress party to reduce it to a question of one person.

"While Rahulji has bravely taken full responsibility for the defeat, we all are responsible for what went wrong and we all have a responsibility to ensure the party's revival," the 63-year-old leader said.

DMK Chief Stalin Urges Rahul To Not Quit

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam chief MK Stalin requested Congress president Rahul Gandhi not to step down from his post, saying he has won the hearts of the people though his party lost the general election.

Amid reports that Gandhi was firm on quitting, Stalin spoke to the Congress top leader over phone and “appealed to him to give up the idea of resigning as party president,” DMK said.

Rahul and his mother Sonia Gandhi greeted Stalin for the resounding victory of the DMK-led alliance in Tamil Nadu.

The DMK-led front in Tamil Nadu won 37 of the 38 Lok Sabha seats.