Hebbalkar, Nimbalkar appointed as Cong. spokespersons

Their communication skills needed to present an informed opinion of party’s ideology, says D.K. Shivakumar

The Congress appointed two young women legislators from Belagavi as the State-level spokespersons of the party on Tuesday.

KPCC president D.K. Shivakumar issued letters of appointment to the two MLAs, Lakshmi Hebbalkar and Anjali NImbalkar, saying their “knowledge about current affairs and communication skills were much needed in these days when the party needs to present an informed opinion about its ideology and views about various issues, before the society’’. The appointments come into effect immediately and the two spokespersons will start working with the guidance of the AICC media wing’s leaders.

The spokespersons come from two completely different backgrounds. Ms. Hebbalkar came up through the ranks from a Youth Congress worker to the Karnataka Mahila Congress president’s post by leading street protests and taking on popular leaders with her statements in public.

Dr. Nimbalkar is a suave, English speaking postgraduate in medicine. The relative of two former Chief Ministers of Maharashtra is married to an IPS officer. She is not known to make public statements, participate in party conferences or address press conferences.

The choice is being interpreted by party insiders in many ways. “That the two have been appointed to the KPCC parent body and not the women’s wing is a clear message of women’s empowerment. No other party in Karnataka has two women in such important positions,” said a Congress leader.

The Congress needs to adapt to changing times and needs spokespersons who can speak to a larger, rural, Kannada speaking audience along with those who are proficient in English and are skilled in using new media. Most of the fights nowadays are on social media and we need more leaders who can spread our ideology and counter criticism by the IT cells of the BJP and other parties, he said.

Another reason, the leader said, was representation to different castes. While Ms. Hebbalkar is a Lingayat leader, Dr. Nimbalkar is a Marathi speaking Kshatriya. “Our services are required not only in border areas such as Belagavi, Vijayapura, Kalaburagi and Bidar, but also in communicating with leaders and cadre from other States. A diverse leadership expands the voter base,’’ he said.

However, some others feel that the appointments show that the interplay of different factions in the party. Ms. Hebbalkar is seen as a member of Mr. Shivakumar’s core team. Dr. Nimbalkar has got the opportunity as the party wants to show it accommodates other leaders, said a former KPCC member from Belagavi.

A few days ago, Mr .Shivakumar had advised Mahila Congress members not to limit themselves to the women’s wing. He asked women leaders not to compete among themselves, but to work for the party in general, without limiting themselves to women’s issues.

KPCC working president Satish Jarkiholi said that the party was making all efforts to counter the “false propaganda” of the BJP and also to train its own cadre in communication skills. These two leaders are young and articulate. They have got these positions on merit, he said. There was no attempt at balancing factions or caste groups, he added.

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