K'taka Congress MLAs leave CM's choice to Kharge

The Asian Age.  | Ashhar Khan

India, Politics

Insiders claim former CM Siddaramaiah is the frontrunner for the CM’s post, but trouble for the high command won’t be over soon

Karnataka Congress leaders during the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting, in Bengaluru, Sunday. (Photo: PTI)

New Delhi/Bengaluru: The newly-elected Congress MLAs in Karnataka, who met in Bengaluru on Sunday evening, unanimously authorised Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge to choose the state’s next chief minister. As per long-standing party tradition, the Congress Legislature Party left the crucial decision on its new leader to the high command. In its first resolution, the CLP also pledged to honour the five guarantees the party had given during its campaign. It also thanked Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra for their campaigning in the state.

The meeting was attended by all the newly-elected MLAs. AICC general secretary Randeep Singh Surjewala was present. Sushil Kumar Shinde, Deepak Babaria and Jitendra Singh Alwar, who were sent as the AICC observers, were also at the meeting. They will be ascertaining the views of the MLAs before giving a comprehensive report to the high command.

Before the meeting could begin, senior party leaders were in a huddle. AICC general secretary (organisation) K.C. Venugopal and the party’s communications chief Jairam Ramesh were also present.

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, meanwhile, returned to New Delhi on Sunday and he is expected to consult the Gandhis about the developments in Karnataka. Insiders say the high command is keen to ensure that the swearing-in ceremony is held in the coming week, possibly on Thursday, May 18. Speaking to reporters on his arrival in Delhi, he said the observers have been sent to Karnataka and they will be giving a report soon to the high command.

Karnataka PCC chief D.K. Shivakumar and former chief minister and Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Siddaramaiah have both been vocal on their aspiration for the top post, raising fears of an unpleasant stand-off within the party if the matter isn’t resolved swiftly.

Supporters of both Mr Siddaramaiah and Mr Shivakumar shouted slogans outside the Shangri-La Hotel in Bengaluru, where the CLP meeting was being held, demanding that their respective leaders be made chief minister. Both the CM hopefuls will be coming to New Delhi on Monday, and Mr Randeep Surjewala and Mr K.C. Venugopal will be accompanying them.

Insiders claim former CM Siddaramaiah is the frontrunner for the CM’s post, but trouble for the high command won’t be over soon.

PCC chief D.K. Shivakumar is not giving up easily, and his supporters claim it was Mr Shivakumar who had worked tirelessly as state unit chief to ensure that the Congress wrests power from the BJP, hence he should be suitably rewarded with the CM’s chair.

A formula is being worked out in which Siddaramaiah will be the CM and there will be three deputy CMs. This may be unacceptable to Mr Shivakumar, who at best will settle for one deputy CM, which will be him, basically making him number two in the government and remaining as the state unit chief. He is expected to accept such a deal if he is the only deputy chief minister.

The names of M.B. Patil and G. Parmeshwara were also doing the rounds for the other two posts of deputy CM; they are also very keen on their appointments. The party wants to ensure that the Cabinet has a rainbow representation from all sections and regions of the state. Sources say that the idea of a rotational CM also came up at the meeting, but seeing the experience of the party in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, there were very few takers for the idea.