On Saturday – exactly a week since result of Karnataka assembly elections 2023 was declared – Siddaramaiah will take oath as Chief Minister. KPCC President DK Shivakumar will take charge as Deputy Chief Minister.
The All-India Congress Committee (AICC) made the announcement official in Delhi on Thursday, 18 May, after days of deliberations and consultations with both leaders staking claim to the top job.
But the process to officially announce 75-year-old Siddaramaiah as the leader of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) was not a cakewalk.
The ‘high command’ also announced that DK Shivakumar would be the only deputy chief minister (DyCM) and also continue as the president of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) till the completion of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
After marathon meetings and consultation with the Gandhi family, the high command announced that Siddaramaiah would be the next chief minister and take oath on 20 May.
Shivakumar has called for a CLP meeting at the state party headquarters in Bengaluru at 7 pm on Thursday.
Congress makes official announcement
Putting an end to the suspense, AICC general secretary (organisation) KC Venugopal told reporters in Delhi: “We have decided on Siddaramaiah as the chief minister of Karnataka. KPCC chief DK Shivakumar will be the only deputy chief minister.”
He added: “AICC chief Kharge held one-to-one discussion with both the leaders (chief ministerial aspirants) and took the opinion of former AICC presidents Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi and also Priyanka Gandhi and other senior leaders.”
Team Congress is committed to usher progress, welfare and social justice for the people of Karnataka.
We will implement the 5 guarantees promised to 6.5 Cr Kannadigas. pic.twitter.com/6sycng00Bu
— Mallikarjun Kharge (@kharge) May 18, 2023
Venugopal, who was in charge of the Congress’s Karnataka unit in the 2018 Assembly polls, continued: “He (Kharge) decided to make Siddaramaiah the chief minister and DKS the DyCM. Shivakumar will continue as the head of the state party unity until the end of the general elections.”
Stating that the party had called a CLP meeting in Bengaluru on Thursday, he said: “We have called CLP meeting in the evening to formally elect the CLP leader.”
He added: “The swearing-in ceremony will be held at 12.30 pm in Bengaluru on 20 May. A few MLAs will also take oath as Cabinet ministers on the same day.”
On power-sharing, Venugopal said: “The only power-sharing formula is to share the power with the people of Karnataka.”
He added: “Ours is a democratic party. We believe in consensus and not in a dictatorship.”
Assuring that the party would implement its poll promises, AICC GS Randeep Singh Surjewala, who is also in charge of the Karnataka Congress, told reporters: “The Congress is committed to fulfilling the five promises that were made during the elections.”
He added: “The Congress will provide stable, model, and pro-people governance in order to build ‘Brand Karnataka’. This win is not only of the Congress but also of the people of Karnataka, democracy and the Constitution.”
AICC leaders also said that they would invite like-minded leaders to the swearing-in ceremony on 20 May.
Challenges before arriving at decision
The Congress made the official announcement after much deliberations and a series of meetings chaire by Kharge with the Gandhi family, AICC observers, general secretaries, and the two chief-ministerial aspirants — Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar.
However, it was not an easy task for the high command as neither of the leaders was ready to budge.
A day after the CLP meeting, which was held at a private hotel in Bengaluru on 14 May, Siddaramaiah along with his supporters flew to Delhi. Shivakumar followed him the next day.
On condition of anonymity, a senior Congress member told South First: “It was not an easy task for the high command to finalise the chief ministerial candidate soon after the CLP meeting as both the contenders were not ready to give up.”
The individual added: “Kharge held one-on-one meetings with both the aspirants at his residence but couldn’t come to a final decision on the first two days. Shivakumar came up with many conditions, which the high command was reluctant to agree to.”
Following one-on-one meetings with the two aspirants, Kharge also held consultations with UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, former AICC President Rahul Gandhi, AICC General Secretary KC Venugopal and AICC In-charge for Karnataka Randeep Surjewala. The two aspirants too met each of the leaders together and separately, multiple times in the last three days to present their case.
While Siddaramaiah insisted that he was the popular choice of people as well as preferred choice of MLAs, Shivakumar is said to have demanded recognition and reward for his commitment and loyalty to the party.
A late evening video call with key leaders of Congress was held to finalise on a ‘formula’ agreeable to both aspirants. DK Shivakumar is said to have been given an assurance that hard work would not go unrewarded. Siddaramaiah, in the meanwhile, has been asked to be more accommodative and approachable.
The senior leader also said: “Some of the conditions put forth by Shivakumar were power-sharing between him and Siddaramaiah in this tenure, that there should not be any other DyCM, and Cabinet berths — including portfolios — for legislators supporting him. After much deliberations, the high command agreed to his conditions and came to a decision on appointing the CLP leader.”
On whether Siddaramaiah had put any conditions before the high command, he said: “Siddaramaiah was demanding only the chief minister’s post. He was firm on his stand.”
Asked whether the names had been finalised for the Cabinet, he said: “The party high command is yet to disclose the names. The decision is likely to be taken in the CLP meeting on Thursday.”
Sources in the party suggested that Shivakumar was unwilling to budge from his demand for CM post given his past experience with Siddaramaiah. During the previous Siddaramaiah regime, Shivakumar had to wait for years before becoming part of the cabinet. Sources also suggested that Shivakumar wanted a public announcement on rotation of CM post, but party leaders decided against it. Eventually, DK Shivakumar relented but with conditions.
“Some sacrifices have to be made for the party. Party comes first,” DK Shivakumar told television cameras in New Delhi before starting to Bengaluru. He stressed that he had “sacrificed” to make way for Siddaramaiah to be Chief Minister. Shivakumar also refused to divulge details on whether a power-sharing or rotation formula had been agreed upon.
DK Suresh ‘not fully happy’
Bengaluru Rural MP DK Suresh, who is also Shivakumar’s brother, told reporters that he was not happy with the high command’s decision of appointing Siddaramaiah the next chief minister of Karnataka.
“I am not fully happy with this, but we wanted to fulfil our commitment to the people of Karnataka. This is why DK Shivakumar accepted (the party’s decision),” Suresh told a news channel.
He added: “I wish for Shivakumar to be the chief minister in future, and there is a long way to go.”
He had gone to Delhi on 14 May, even before his brother. He had camped there for three days.
Suresh also reportedly held talks with Kharge and Rahul Gandhi over honouring his brother with the chief minister’s post.