With Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee president R.V. Deshpande appointing the former Chief Justice N.Y. Hanumanthappa to inquire into the how the “leak” of the news pertaining to the alleged misuse of donations for flood victims occurred, the basic question of whether Rs. 50 lakh was actually squandered has been side-stepped. The inquiry will only recommend action to “discipline” those responsible for the leak.
This provides an important insight into the factionalism that has gripped the party, as it suggests that the Mr. Deshpande may well be suspecting an insider of the leak. The simmering discontent between the two factions led by Mr. Deshpande and working president D.K. Shivakumar is now in the public domain. Although the party high command is yet to make any pronouncement on the matter, AICC election committee chief Oscar Fernandes, who was in Bangalore to file his Rajya Sabha nomination, said suitable action would be taken against those responsible for the misuse of funds and leaking the news to the media.
Deeper schisms have surfaced following the media disclosure that appears to have pitted “original” Congressmen against “migrants” (i.e., those who have recently joined from the Janata Dal (Secular)). Many Congress leaders and workers cite the tension between the two factions as the reason for the successive defeat of the party in the last few elections, the latest being the Bruhat Bangalore Mahangara Palike polls.
Mr. Deshpande has argued that the money was used for advertisements, buying of T-shirts for Youth Congress workers, purchasing air ticket to the former Union Minister M.V. Rajasekharan to go to New Delhi and returning huge loans borrowed by the party. A shocked Mr. Rajasekharan returned the money after learning it was meant for flood victims.
Other State leaders have been drawn into taking sides. Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Assembly Siddaramaiah denied misuse of funds. On the other hand, Karnataka Pradesh Youth Congress president and MLA Krishna Byregowda denied having utilised money to buy T-shirts worth Rs 19,000.
Mysore MP A.H. Vishwanath has criticised Mr. Deshpande on the issue, while former MP Tejaswini Gowda, an arch rival of Mr. Shivakumar, has called for his resignation for leaking it to media.
The Congress could perhaps take a leaf from the BJP's book. Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa has frankly admitted to avoidable delays by his government in providing houses for the flood-affected in North Karnataka.