New Congress Legislature Party asks Mallikarjun Kharge to pick next Karnataka Chief Minister

Several formulae, including rotating the position between Siddaramaiah and D.K. Shivakumar, and creating multiple Deputy CM berths to accommodate various communities, are being discussed

May 14, 2023 07:47 pm | Updated 11:40 pm IST - New Delhi

Senior Congress leaders Siddaramaiah, D.K. Shivakumar and others during the Congress Legislature Party meeting in Bengaluru on May 14, 2023.

Senior Congress leaders Siddaramaiah, D.K. Shivakumar and others during the Congress Legislature Party meeting in Bengaluru on May 14, 2023. | Photo Credit: PTI

The Karnataka Congress Legislature Party’s (CLP) meeting on Sunday, preceded by intense lobbying, unanimously passed a one-line resolution authorising the president of the All India Congress Committee Mallikarjun Kharge to appoint the new CLP leader, who will become Chief Minister of the State.

This comes amidst intense competition between former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president D.K. Shivakumar to become the next CM of the State. During the campaign, the two leaders had put up a united front, saying that both of them were aspirants for chief ministership, but that the elected MLAs and the party high command would take the final call. 

In results announced on Saturday, the Congress won 135 seats, the highest tally for any party in Karnataka’s Assembly polls since 1989, reducing the BJP to 66 seats and the Janata Dal (Secular) to 19 seats. 

Rotation formula

In Sunday’s meeting, Mr. Siddaramaiah proposed the one-line resolution, which was supported by Mr. Shivakumar and others, and was then passed unanimously.

With this resolution, the action is likely to shift to New Delhi from Monday. Several formulae, including rotating the position between the two leaders, and also creating multiple deputy chief ministerial berths to accommodate various communities, were being discussed, sources said. Party sources were hopeful of brokering a compromise solution between the two leaders in the next three to four days. 

Treading carefully

Given that both leaders have a strong base in the State and a claim to power, and that the Congress has faced rebellion in states like Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan over their choice of Chief Ministers, the party is treading carefully, sources said. 

Former Maharashtra CM Sushil Kumar Shinde and AICC general secretaries Jitendra Singh and Deepak Babaria presided over the CLP meeting as central observers. Any MLA was free to approach them and share their opinion and offer feedback, sources said, adding that the observers are unlikely to carry out extensive individual consultation.

Lobbying along caste lines

The CLP meeting on Sunday evening was preceded by intense lobbying by both leaders seeking the support of MLAs. The lobbying acquired a caste tinge when the prominent Vokkaliga seer of Adichunchanagiri Math, Nirmalandanatha Swami, openly batted for Mr. Shivakumar to be made Chief Minister, just minutes before the CLP meeting. 

Calling for a “reward” for the hard work put in by Mr. Shivakumar to bring the party to power, the seer of the Math said, “It is a tradition that whoever is the president of the party is also given responsibility to lead the State when the party comes to power. D.K. Shivakumar, from the Vokkaliga community, should become the Chief Minister of the State. He is eligible to lead the State in every way.”

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