Siddaramaiah and DK Shivakumar — the two leaders who were the face of the Congress’ campaign in the Karnataka Assembly polls 2023 — got the party a 135-seat majority. Now they are locking horns over the chief minister’s post.
The race for the post of leader of Karnataka’s Congress Legislature Party (CLP) intensified on Tuesday, dotted with marathon meetings.
Former chief minister Siddaramaiah and KPCC president DK Shivakumar both met All-India Congress Committee (AICC) chief Mallikarjun Kharge individually in New Delhi on Tuesday, 16 May.
From Bengaluru to Delhi
The Congress’ political drama over electing the next chief minister shifted to Delhi from Bengaluru on Tuesday, with Siddaramaiah arriving on Monday and Shivakumar on Tuesday morning, having been lain low by a physical illness.
Siddaramaiah, along with his supporters, including MLAs HK Patil, MB Patil, Zameer Ahmed Khan, and Byrathi Suresh, reached Delhi on Monday evening. However, the former Karnataka chief minister could not meet any of the leaders from the top brass.
Sources from the party suggested that Siddaramaiah was one step closer to becoming the chief minister after emerging as the popular choice among the newly-elected MLAs through a secret ballot voting conducted in Bengaluru on Sunday.
The day began with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi chairing a closed-door meeting with Kharge at the latter’s residence in Delhi, where they reportedly held discussions over the government formation in Karnataka.
AICC general secretary Randeep Surjewala, who is in charge of the Congress’s Karnataka unit, was also present at the meeting.
Kharge has already held discussions with party leaders from Karnataka and the three observers appointed by him to oversee the CLP meeting in Bengaluru that was held on Sunday.
The AICC chief also chaired a separate meeting with Siddaramaiah and DK Shivakumar in the afternoon hours. After the meeting, both leaders were asked to stay back.
The AICC chief is scheduled to hold a meeting with former AICC presidents Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi and with the observers, AICC general secretaries, and state leaders on Wednesday.
Siddaramaiah meets Kharge twice
Following Kharge’s meeting with Rahul Gandhi, Siddaramaiah met with the AICC chief over the appointment of the leader for the CLP at the latter’s residence in Delhi. Siddaramaiah was accompanied by his supporters and newly-elected MLAs.
In the evening, Siddaramaiah once again met Kharge and held a brief talk regarding appointing him as the leader of the CLP. This meeting was held after KPCC chief DK Shivakumar met the AICC chief at the latter’s residence.
Sources confirmed to South First on Tuesday that Siddaramaiah received over 90 out of the 135 votes from the newly-elected legislators in the “secret voting” conducted by the AICC observers in Bengaluru on Sunday.
AICC observers — former Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde, AICC general secretary Deepak Babaria, and former AICC general secretary Jitendra Singh — submitted the CLP meeting report to Kharge on Monday.
Shivakumar meets high command
Without any of his supporters in tow, KPCC chief DK Shivakumar flew to the national capital on Tuesday morning.
Before leaving Bengaluru, the KPCC chief told reporters in Bengaluru, “The Congress general secretary has instructed me to come alone. I’m going to Delhi alone. My health is good.”
Asked if he would demand for the chief minister’s post, he replied, “I have done my duty. The Congress is my mother and our temple.”
He was scheduled to leave for Delhi on Monday evening, but cancelled his plan citing ill health.
On Tuesday evening, Shivakumar met Kharge and held talks with him, reportedly demanding that he be honoured with the chief minister’s post for bringing the party back to power in the 2023 Karnataka Assembly polls.
Some news reports alleged that Shivakumar threatened the high command with his resignation if his demands were not met.
Responding to these allegations, Shivakumar cautioned the media that he would file a defamation suit if such unverified and baseless reports were to be published again.
He said, “The party is my mother; we have built it. There is no question of resigning from the organisation.”
A third contender?
Amid intense lobbying for the chief minister’s post in Karnataka, senior Congress leader and Koratagere (SC) MLA G Parameshwara on Tuesday said, “I am ready to take up the responsibility if the party high command asks me to run the government.”
The former deputy chief minister added: “The high command is aware of my service to the party and I don’t feel the need to lobby for the post. If the high command decides and asks me to run the government, I’m ready to take up the responsibility.”
Along with Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar, Parameshwara staked a claim on the chief minister’s post even before the Assembly elections were announced.
He further said, “I have faith in the party high command. I have certain principles. I can also take about 50 legislators and do the shouting, but for me, the discipline of the party is important. If people like us don’t follow things, there won’t be any discipline in the party.”
He added, “The high command, too, is aware that I have worked for the party, served it for eight years (as KPCC president), and brought it to power (in 2013). It knows everything; there is nothing for us to say afresh.”
He also told reporters: “I feel there is no need for me to ask for the post or lobby for it; hence, I’m quiet. That doesn’t mean I’m incapable. I’m capable and, if given the opportunity, I will do the job.”