In their first Legislative Party meeting after the Karnataka Assembly elections, newly-elected MLAs of the Congress passed two resolutions on Sunday, 14 May.
At a private hotel in Bengaluru, the MLAs passed a single-line resolution authorising All India Congress Committee (AICC) chief Mallikarjun Kharge to appoint the CLP chief — in effect, the Chief Minister.
The highlight of the day, however, was MLAs voting for their choice of chief minister as observers appointed by the AICC collected opinions from each of them.
Even after a resolution was passed authorising Kharge to appoint the CLP chief, the MLAs were asked to take to a secret ballot to convey their choice of chief minister in what AICC observers deemed as the “due process of selecting CLP chief”.
The outcome of the voting will be conveyed to the central leadership.
In the 2023 Assembly elections, the Congress got a clear majority by winning 135 seats, while the BJP won 66, the JD(S) 19, and others won four.
The consultation process came at a time when senior leaders Siddaramaiah, a former chief minister, and KPCC president DK Shivakumar were vying for the top post.
If Siddaramaiah is banking on his popularity and experience as a chief minister to lobby for the post, DK Shivakumar has appealed for his hard work, commitment, and loyalty to the party in the face of personal attacks to be rewarded.
The party is said to be keen on accommodating the demands of both leaders with a timeline in mind.
The meeting was held under the headship of AICC observers that included former Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde, party general secretary (GS) Jitendra Singh Alwar, and former GS Deepak Babaria.
AICC GS Randeep Singh Surjewala, who is also in charge of the Congress’ Karnataka unit, Rajya Sabha member Jairam Ramesh, and other senior leaders of the party were also present.
After hectic political meetings with the supporters (new MLAs) and temple visits throughout the day, Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar took part in the meeting along with all the newly elected 135 legislators.
Though the Congress got a clear mandate, the party is yet to come to a conclusion on appointing the chief minister of Karnataka as both Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar have reportedly made strong claims for the top post.
After the CLP meeting, Randeep Singh Surjewala told reporters in Bengaluru: “AICC chief Kharge has instructed the general secretary KC Venugopal that the three observers, including Sushilkumar Shinde, should take the individual opinion of each legislator on electing new CLP leader.”
He added: “After completing the process, the opinion of the legislators will be conveyed to the high command. The process will be finished today at any cost.”
Congress is UNITED.
Our goal is to ensure we deliver good governance to the people of Karnataka who have trusted us. Our priority is to fulfill Congress Guarantees. pic.twitter.com/1EbSFyBch5
— Randeep Singh Surjewala (@rssurjewala) May 14, 2023
On the directions of the AICC chief, the observers started the process of collecting the opinion from every legislator post-dinner session at the private hotel.
Kalghatgi’s newly elected MLA Santosh Lad told South First: “The AICC observers are collecting the opinions from every individual MLA on the appointment of CLP leader. I have expressed my opinion to the observer.”
He added: “The process is going smoothly. There are no confusions within the party. I will abide by the decision of the party high command.”
However, he didn’t disclose anything about observers reportedly asking MLAs to vote for the chief minister of their choice.
In the CLP meeting, Siddaramaiah moved a single-line resolution authorising the AICC head to appoint a new leader of the CLP, said the party.
“DK Shivakumar also moved a resolution reiterating our commitment to the people of Karnataka. It was endorsed by Legislative Council Leader of the Opposition BK Hariprasad and others,” Surjewala told reporters.
“Siddaramaiah also moved a single-line resolution authorising the AICC president to appoint a new leader of the CLP. All 135 MLAs unanimously approved that resolution. It was also endorsed by Shivakumar, RV Deshpande and Eshwar Khandre,” Surjewala elaborated.
Earlier in the day, Siddaramaiah met Kharge at the latter’s residence before the AICC chief flew to Delhi.
The supporters of Siddaramaiah among the newly elected MLAs reportedly held meetings at an apartment owned by Hebbal MLA Byrathi Suresh in Bengaluru.
KPCC communication chairman and Babaleshwar MLA MB Patil, Koppal MLA Raghavendra Hitnal, Yelburga MLA Basavaraj Rayreddy, and other leaders are said to have taken part in the meeting.
According to sources in the party, “Around 65 MLAs are backing Siddaramaiah for the chief minister’s post.”
Even Basavaraj Ray Reddy expressed his support to Siddaramaiah while addressing the media in the afternoon in Bengaluru.
Alongside the meeting with AICC Observers, birthday celebration of Sh. @DKShivakumar continue as all celebrate together. Happy birthday.
— Randeep Singh Surjewala (@rssurjewala) May 14, 2023
Ahead of the CLP meeting, Shivakumar, who is also Vokkaliga leader, went for a temple run in the Vokkaliga and Lingayat-dominated Tumakuru district.
He is also reportedly demanding that the high command appoint him the leader of the opposition.
Shivakumar offered prayers at Tumakuru’s Siddaganga Mutt and Tiptur’s Kadusiddeshwara Mutt, taking the blessings of the pontiffs of both precincts.
He has the support of the newly elected MLAs of the Vokkaliga community.
The Vokkaliga Sangha, which is the main body of the community of Karnataka, organised a meeting of Vokkaliga pontiffs where a unanimous decision was taken to request the Congress top brass to appoint Shivakumar, who has been heading the state unit, as the next chief minister.
Prominent Vokkaliga pontiff of Adi Chunchanagiri, Nirmalananda Natha Swami, appealed to the Congress central leadership on Sunday to appoint Shivakumar as the next chief minister of Karnataka.
In the wake of Congress getting a thumping majority in the Assembly polls, Nirmalananda Natha Swami said: “Shivakumar is the most eligible candidate by all standards to head the state.”
He added: “This programme has been organised to request all the seniors — right from Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, and Mallikarjun Kharge to Siddaramaiah — to give Shivakumar an opportunity to run the administration and serve the society.”
The seer also said: “Shivakumar had suffered a lot while discharging his duty. We all saw tears in his eyes yesterday, which were a mix of joy and pain. The man who toiled so much should get the result.”