Senior Congress leader and former Karnataka chief minister SM Krishan resigned from primary membership of the party on Saturday. Krishna, a former chief minister of Karnataka, wrote to Congress President Sonia Gandhi informing her of his decision, The Indian Express reported.

At a press conference on Sunday, Krishna said that he was “pained” that he had been sidelined in the party and that his age was cited as the reason for it, ANI reported. He said, “Congress don’t want leaders these days, they only want managers who can handle a situation”, according to ANI.

He was associated with the Congress for more than five decades, NDTV reported. Karnataka unit leaders expressed their surprise at his resignation. State Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said he did not know about the former Union external affairs minister’s decision.

Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee President and state Home Minister G Parameshwara told reporters he could “not believe” the decision. “I do no want to react now.” Separately, state Congress Working President DG Rao said the party had never sidelined him from its affairs. “He is one of the most likeable leaders of our party...the party had not sidelined him,” he said. “Krishna is a senior leader who has always played politics with dignity. He has always played positive politics.”

Krishna’s resignation comes ahead of the 2018 Assembly elections in the state.