Called "Pratijna Dina", the function to mark the official take-over of Shivakumar as president, along with Eshwar Khandre, Salim Ahmed and Satish Jarkiholi as working presidents of KPCC, is said to have been digitally witnessed by lakhs of people from over 15,000 places.
Following the restrictions in place to control the spread of coronavirus, the ceremony was organised at the party's new office building. Aimed at mobilising the party leaders and cadre, arrangements were made at panchayat and ward-level across the state to see to that they are part of the function through live telecast on TV channels, Zoom, YouTube and social media.
The official take-over saw immediate past president Dinesh Gundu Rao handing over the Congress flag to Shivakumar, and this was followed by party workers across locations, who were digitally watching the function, taking oath and reading the preamble of the Constitution. The ceremony was held on Thursday after it was postponed thrice due to COVID-19 related restrictions in place.
The Congress high command had on March 11 appointed Shivakumar, a six-time MLA, known to be the Congress's chief troubleshooter in crisis situations, replacing Dinesh Gundu Rao as the KPCC chief. Rao had quit the post in December after the party's dismal show of winning only two of the 15 seats in the bypolls.
A written message by AICC president Sonia Gandhi was read out by party general secretary K C Venugopal in which she appreciated the judicious use of technology to mobilise the workers and leaders. Former Congress national president Rahul Gandhi telephoned Shivakumar and asked him to work for the party's success by taking everyone together.
Venugopal, Leader of Opposition Siddaramaiah, senior leader Mallikarjun Kharge, former state Congress presidents, former and present party legislators and MPs, Congress leaders from neighbouring states were among others who attended the function here, virtually. Addressing the partymen, Shivakumar, vowing to convert Congress in Karnataka as a cadre-based party, said he was just a party worker and believes in collective leadership.
"Joining together is the beginning, thinking together is progress, working together is success," he said, while remembering that he was being written off during his arrest in a money laundering case, but Sonia Gandhi picked him for the post and even came to prison and spent time with him. Stating that Congress should come to power again on its own in the state, Shivakumar spoke about implementing the Kerala model.
"Theres the Kerala model. All big leaders there must represent their booth. We have to follow the Kerala model...," he said. It was not an easy path for the Vokkaliga strong man to become the KPCC president, as there was opposition from within.
He continues to have a tough task ahead in taking together the faction-ridden party. There were reports of Siddarmaiah being in favour of one of his confidantes to be made state president.
According to many party insiders, he is said to be the man behind the idea of three working presidents seen as a move loosen Shivakumar's grip on the party. Several other leaders had also opposed Shivakumar's name, citing his recent arrest by the Enforcement Directorate in a money laundering case.
However, Shivakumar's loyalty, roles that he has played in the party's interest during troubled times, worked in his favour. Many feel his appointment would help in consolidating the party in southern parts of the state, where Vokkaligas are in large number.
Considered as Congress's man Friday, Shivakumar had hosted party legislators from Gujarat here in 2017 to ensure the victory of AICC leader Ahmed Patel in the Rajya Sabha elections. He was a key link in the Congress-JDS coalition and had made hectic attempts to prevent the collapse of the H D Kumaraswamy-led government last year after a section of the then ruling MLAs revolted.
Speaking at the take-over function, Siddaramaiah said, "Our aim is to remove BJP and bring Congress to power once again to save the country." He lashed out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi accusing him of lying and betraying the people. He hit out at the government for its handling of COVID crisis and economy.