In a secret ballot held by AICC observers late on Sunday night, Siddaramaiah apparently received the support of a majority of the MLAs.
Amidst the process of electing the leader for the Congress Legislative Party (CLP), former chief minister Siddaramaiah was scheduled to meet the party’s high command — including AICC chief Mallikarjun Kharge and Sonia Gandhi — in Delhi on Monday, 15 May.
A day after the poll results, the Karnataka Congress chaired its first CLP meeting at a private hotel in Bengaluru on Sunday.
The 135 newly-elected legislators not only moved a resolution, but also expressed their individual opinions, reportedly in terms of voting for their choice of chief minister, before three AICC observers — Sushilkumar Shinde, Deepak Bawaria, and Bhanwar Jitendra Singh.
In the recently-held Karnataka Assembly polls, the Congress registered an impressive victory by winning 135 Assembly seats, which is more than double the seats won by the BJP.
As the race for the chief minister’s post intensifies between Siddaramaiah and KPCC president DK Shivakumar, all eyes are now set on the party’s high command.
AICC observer Shinde told reporters in Bengaluru on Monday, “Senior leaders Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar are seen to be front-runners for the post of Karnataka chief minister. The duo would be called to Delhi for consultations, if required.”
He added: “We (observers), along with Congress general secretary and in-charge of Karnataka Randeep Singh Surjewala and general secretary (organisation) KC Venugopal, will go to Delhi.”
He also said: “The report of the CLP meeting and opinions collected from each MLA is confidential, which we can’t divulge. Only our party president Mallikarjun Kharge can reveal it.”
The top brass of the party is expected to announce the leader of the CLP in a day or two.
“The AICC observers have collected the opinions from the newly-elected legislators on Sunday. They will submit the same report to the high command,” claimed sources in the party.
With the competition intensifying, Siddaramaiah is now in Delhi with his supporters to meet the party’s high command.
“Siddaramaiah is flying to Delhi on a special flight. He is likely to meet AICC former president Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. However, the meeting with them is yet to be fixed. Around four to five newly-elected MLAs will accompany the former chief minister,” an official from Siddaramaiah’s office told South First.
The leaders likely to go with Siddaramaiah to the national capital include KPCC campaign committee chairman and Babaleshwar MLA MB Patil, Hebbal MLA Byrathi Suresh, and Chamarajpet MLA Zameer Ahmed Khan.
There are also strong talks that Siddaramaiah — in the guise of visiting the high command — is likely to lobby for the chief minister post as the tussle between him and Shivakumar is fierce.
It makes sense to have him lead the state unit into 2024 polls too. He is a war time general.
— Anusha Ravi Sood (@anusharavi10) May 15, 2023
“Around 60-70 MLAs have reportedly been identified in Siddaramaiah’s camp,” claimed sources.
Many of the newly-elected legislators, including former minister Basavaraj Rayareddy, have openly announced support for the former chief minister.
“I have not only expressed my opinion to appoint Siddaramaiah as the leader for the CLP, but also voted for him,” Madhugiri MLA KN Rajanna told reporters in Bengaluru.
He added, “The pontiffs of the Vokkaliga community have expressed their opinion. I appeal to all the pontiffs to stay away from politics.”
Rajanna also said: “In a democracy, everyone has the right to ask for the top post. The high command has collected the opinions of all the legislators. I have voted for Siddaramaiah.”
KPCC chief DK Shivakumar is also ensuring that no stone is left unturned in order for him to become the next chief minister of Karnataka.
Shivakumar, who is celebrating his 61st birthday on Monday, said that he did not know what “gift” the Congress high command would give him, indicating his intent for the top post.
Along with the support of a section of MLAs — largely from South Karnataka — the pontiffs of the Vokkaliga community are also reportedly pressurising the Congress high command to appoint the community leader as chief minister.
Amidst rumours of Shivakumar flying to Delhi in the afternoon on Monday, he clarified that he is not flying to Delhi as he did not receive any call from the party’s central leadership.
Speaking to reporters in Bengaluru, Shivakumar responded to a question on whether the party’s high command would prefer to see him in the chief minister’s seat.
“I don’t know. I have done whatever task was given to me. We have sent a one-line resolution to Delhi. The government will be formed at an auspicious time,” he said.
In the morning, Shivakumar arrived at the private hotel where most of the legislators were camped, and held talks with many MLAs — mostly his supporters. He left the hotel around 2 pm.
The Vokkaligara Sangha, which is the main body of one of the dominant communities of Karnataka, organised a meeting of Vokkaliga pontiffs where a unanimous decision was taken to request the Congress top brass to appoint Shivakumar, a Vokkaliga who has been heading the state unit, as the next chief minister.
On Monday, one of the pontiffs of the Adichunchanagiri Mutt held a demonstration with the followers in Mysuru, demanding the chief minister post for Shivakumar.