Ending days of uncertainty and speculation, the Congress on May 18 announced that 75-year-old Siddaramaiah, an eight-term MLA, will be the next Chief Minister of Karnataka. Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee president D.K. Shivakumar, who was insistent on securing the top job, will be the Deputy Chief Minister.
The formal announcement was made after a meeting of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) of newly-elected MLAs in Bengaluru, which was attended by the party’s central observers. This is the second CLP meeting in a week, with the first having been held on May 14.
In the meeting, Mr. Shivakumar moved a resolution to elect Mr. Siddaramaiah as the CLP leader and all the newly-elected MLAs endorsed it unanimously. The Chief Minister, Deputy Chief Minister, and a group of Ministers will be sworn in on Saturday (May 20) at Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru.
Opposition leaders at swearing-in
Leaders of like-minded political parties — including West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav, Left leaders Sitaram Yechury and D. Raja, and Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar — are expected to participate in the swearing-in ceremony.
After the CLP meeting, a Congress delegation called on Governor Thaawarchand Gehlot at Raj Bhavan to stake their claim to form the government.
As both Mr. Siddaramaiah and Mr. Shivakumar insisted on the top job, government formation was deadlocked and it reportedly took the intervention of former Congress chief Sonia Gandhi to resolve it.
No power sharing arrangement
Earlier in the day in Delhi, addressing a press conference along with the Congress general secretary in-charge of Karnataka Randeep Singh Surjewala, the general secretary for organisation K.C. Venugopal said that Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge took the decision on the chief ministerial and deputy chief ministerial candidates after consulting senior leaders, including Ms. Gandhi.
Mr. Shivakumar, who has also been elected consecutively for eight terms since 1989, will be the sole Deputy CM of Karnataka. “He will continue as the KPCC president until the Lok Sabha election (2024) is over,” Mr. Venugopal said.
Asked about any power sharing arrangement between Mr. Siddaramaiah and Mr. Shivakumar, Mr. Venugopal said, “The only power sharing arrangement we have is with the people of Karnataka.”
‘Consensus, not dictatorship’
Soon after the official announcement, both leaders took to Twitter to say that they would work as a family to deliver the five “guarantees” in the Congress manifesto, and the promises made to the people of Karnataka.
The final breakthrough was achieved well past Wednesday midnight at Mr. Kharge’s residence. “Mr. Shivakumar has made a sacrifice for the sake of the party and the Gandhi family,” a source close to the KPCC chief told The Hindu.
Asked about the delay in announcement and the series of meetings, Mr. Surjewala said that the Congress was “a democratic party that believed in consensus and not in dictatorship.”
On Thursday, Mr. Siddaramaiah and Mr. Shivakumar had breakfast with Mr. Venugopal and Mr. Surjewala. Photographs of Mr. Kharge holding up the hands of both Karnataka leaders were released to the media in an attempt to convey the message that both leaders are united.
Mr. Siddaramaiah has an uphill task ahead. With the selection of the Chief Minister not being a smooth affair, the task of forming the Cabinet is likely to be mind-boggling, party sources said. This is because there are more than 50 aspirants in the party who are vying for the 32 ministerial berths.
The Dalit leader and former KPCC president G. Parameshwara had also placed his demand for the Deputy Chief Minister’s post, noting that 37 Dalit MLAs have been elected. “We are disciplined soldiers of the party. We are hopeful that the party high command will provide justice to Dalits in the Cabinet formation,” he said.
Representation for all
Even as the aspirants intensified their lobbying, sources said that the party high command’s intention was to ensure that all factions and regions get appropriate representation in the new government, especially given the upcoming parliamentary election.
Sources said that the central leaders of the party will shortlist the candidates to be sworn in as Ministers on Saturday, in consultation with Mr. Siddaramaiah and Mr. Shivakumar.
Senior leaders, including M.B. Patil, G. Parameshwara, K.H. Muniyappa, Satish Jarkiholi, B.K. Hariprasad, H.K. Patil, K.J. George, Ramalinga Reddy and U.T. Khader, are expected to become Ministers.