The Congress in Karnataka has a new chief - DK Shivakumar, the party's high-profile troubleshooter in the state. The seven-time MLA formally took charge as the president of the state unit, KPCC, on Thursday morning at a virtual rally for which the BJP-ruled state government had denied permission thrice.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi sent a letter appreciating the efforts made to hold the event in keeping with COVID-19 guidelines and commended the use of technology to avoid crowding. Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra also called to wish him well.
In a tweet, Mr Shivakumar thanked the Gandhis for their words of encouragement and wrote: "Today, on #PratijnaDina together with lakhs of Congress workers, I took charge of @INCKarnataka and solemnly swore to uphold the Indian constitution & work unitedly with all leaders to serve the people of Karnataka and build a cadre-based inclusive Congress party in the state."
Today, on #PratijnaDina together with lakhs of Congress workers, I took charge of @INCKarnataka and solemnly swore to uphold the Indian constitution & work unitedly with all leaders to serve the people of Karnataka and build a cadre-based inclusive Congress party in the state. pic.twitter.com/D0bg8IQKfU— DK Shivakumar (@DKShivakumar) July 2, 2020
Citing pandemic guidelines over political gatherings, the state government had earlier denied permission for the planned function evoking a strong reaction from Mr Shivakumar, who questioned the BJP's rallies in West Bengal, Bihar and Odisha.
At the time, Mr Shivakumar had said, "I have requested the government three times. First, it was May 31, then June 7, then June 14th. I applied as per the norms. I was given a written reply that as per Covid guidelines they can't permit us. They are misusing the disaster management guidelines."
The pandemic meant that what would otherwise have been a massive function was scaled down on the ground, though it remained very ambitious online.
The function was held in the conference hall of the KPCC Office in Bengaluru. It was attended by a limited number of Congress leaders and party workers all of whom wore masks.
The proceedings of the ceremony were telecast across 7,000 locations in the state through Kannada channels and through social media websites. The party claims the event was attended virtually by about 10 lakh people.
The decision to appoint Mr Shivakumar to replace Dinesh Gundu Rao as the KPCC chief was taken soon after the BJP formed the government in Karnataka in July last year.
The BJP staked claim after the HD Kumaraswamy-led coalition government collapsed as MLAs from the ruling coalition government resigned.
Mr Shivakumar, then a minister, played an important role in trying to save the Congress-JD(S) government by holding talks with the rebel MLAs in a Mumbai hotel, where they were shifted to prevent horse-trading.
However, the Congress did badly in the bypolls held to secure seats left vacant by party MLAs who had switched to the BJP.
After the defeat, Mr Rao resigned as the KPCC President and Mr Shivakumar was appointed as the president-designate.
The leader faces corruption charges and spent time in Delhi's Tihar Jail. He had been greeted by huge crowds when he returned to Bengaluru after being granted bail.