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Karnataka Election Results: Randeep Surjewala's Stock Likely to Rise in Congress

Randeep Singh Surjewala took over as Congress' Karnataka in-charge when the party was in the doldrums.

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A great deal of credit for the Congress' win goes to Siddaramaiah's mass appeal, DK Shivakumar's organisational skills and party president Mallikarjun Kharge's leadership. But there has been another fuctionary who is said to have done his job with efficiency - Congress general secretary in-charge for Karnataka Randeep Singh Surjewala.

Sources in the Congress say that when Mallikarjun Kharge appoints his new team, Surjewala could be in for an important assignment. More on that later.

First, what role did Surjewala play in the Karnataka election?

Took Over in 2020

In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress faced a massive debacle in Karnataka, winning just 1 seat - DK Suresh, brother of DK Shivakumar, in Bengaluru Rural.

This was followed by the fall of the HD Kumaraswamy-led coalition government between the Congress and the Janata Dal-Secular.

Then the Congress suffered defeats in many of the bypolls necessitated by the MLAs who left its ranks and joined the BJP.

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It was following these setbacks that the Congress leadership in Karnataka underwent a change in 2020.

First, Dinesh Gundu Rao stepped down as the Karnataka Congress president. A few months later, he was replaced by DK Shivakumar. Then later that year, Randeep Surjewala replaced KC Venugopal as the general secretary in-charge.

Surjewala at that time was the Congress general secretary in-charge for communications. He held that position until 2022 when he was replaced by Jairam Ramesh.

Sources reveal that Shivakumar and Surjewala struck a good working relationship from the beginning.

"Both leaders are very practical and no-nonsense in their approach," revealed a source who has worked with both the leaders.

Party insiders also say that both Surjewala and Shivakumar are very firm not to get drawn into the BJP's pitch of an ideological contest. They rather chose to attack the BJP on governance related issues.

Balancing Between Leaders

One of the biggest challenges for any general secretary in-charge in the Congress is to deal with factional rivalries. It becomes even more difficult when the in-charge is junior to the dominant state leaders.

In that sense, Surjewala had his task cut out with Siddaramaiah, Shivakumar and even other important state leaders like G Parameshwara being senior to him.

Apparently, Surjewala has consistently been respectful of all the state leaders and didn't try to push his way unlike a few other current and former in-charges in other states.

However, it was also made clear that Surjewala is no pushover and has the party high commands ear.

He did make his displeasure known on a few occasions such as in the beginning of the campaign when both Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar made media statements out of turn.

"The party high command and the in-charge both understood very well that Siddaramaiah and DK Shivakumar are both good at what they do and there's no need to push them," revealed a party source involved with the Karnataka campaign.

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Three other factors helped strike a balance between the two leaders.

  1. The Bharat Jodo Yatra made Rahul Gandhi the undisputed national leader within the Congress. From the beginning his view was that the two leaders must work together.

  2. Mallikarjun Kharge became the Congress president. Being a veteran Karnataka leader, he understands every aspect of state politics and is senior to both Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar. So it was impossible for any one leader to dominate.

  3. The Himachal Pradesh campaign and Priyanka Gandhi's role in it, gave the Congress an effective model of making competing factions work together.

What Next for Randeep Singh Surjewala?

The first challenge is, of course, to ensure smooth government formation in a way that balances a number of concerns - accommodated both Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar, ensuring that the MLAs are satisfied and the high command's concerns are also met especially in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections.

There is also speculation that after the victory in Karnataka, Surjewala could be considered for an even more important position in the party hierarchy.

Despite taking over as Congress president over six months ago, Mallikarjun Kharge is yet to appoint his team. The delay was mainly due to the Bharat Jodo Yatra and the Karnataka elections. It may have to be done soon as the 5 state elections are due end of this year.

For the past few months, there has been speculation that if Surjewala manages to deliver Karnataka, he could be made the Congress' general secretary (organisation).

KC Venugopal's term has come to an end and as it is Kharge is supposed to reconstitute his team. Of course, when it comes to the Congress, there is often a slip between the cup and the lip. But few can deny that Surjewala's stock has increased after the Karnataka win.

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