KARNATAKA

Entry of newcomers irks Congress workers

BELGAUM, FEB. 26. Congress workers have threatened to field a rebel candidate if the party decides to give the party nomination to former All India Progressive Janata Dal (AIPJD) legislators.

Meetings held recently by the Block Congress Committees of Bagewadi and Hukkeri saw party workers openly expressing their ire against the newcomers, including the President of the AIPJD district unit, S.C. Malgi, and the former Minister, Umesh Katti.

The former Minister, A.B. Patil, and Mahantesh Koujalgi, who represents Sankeshwar, are the other two AIPJD legislators from the district who have joined the Congress.

Although there is widespread resentment among Congress workers and leaders against the party's decision to open the door to leaders from other parties, their anger is directed particularly against Mr. Malgi and Mr. Katti, according to sources.

The party workers have also declared that they will not tolerate "loyal" workers and leaders being sidelined. According to sources, this has been conveyed to the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) and top leaders of the party.

Interestingly, many workers are not satisfied with the clarification issued by the KPCC President, B. Janardhana Poojary, and the Chief Minister, S.M. Krishna, that the party had admitted leaders from other parties unconditionally.

However, Mr. A.B. Patil and Mr. Malgi, who visited the district Congress office recently, clarified that they had joined the Congress unconditionally. They also promised to work for the success of the party in the ensuing elections.

Mr. Patil said that with strong leaders and a large following, it would not be difficult for the party to win both the Lok Sabha seats and all the 18 Assembly seats in the district

With this, there is a lot of curiosity and anxiety among Congress workers and leaders as they have to wait for the High Command decision on the issue.

It would be too early to "honour" newcomers from rival parties with the party ticket, a worker observed and added that they should be allowed to serve the party for some time before determining their loyalty to the Congress.