Between two determined contenders for the Karnataka Chief Minister’s job — Siddaramaiah patiently confident with his claim of “majority MLAs’ support” and DK Shivakumar emerging from his day-long sulk to declare that he would never quit the Congress nor would he “backstab or blackmail” — the Congress brass was in a huddle on Tuesday.
Siddaramaiah had already arrived in Delhi on Monday, staking his claim before the Congress top leadership with his stated support of a majority of 135 newly-elected MLAs.
DK Shivakumar was to come but, causing much anxiety in the All India Congress Committee (AICC) headquarters, delayed his arrival by a day, claiming a stomach infection. He arrived on Tuesday afternoon, trailed by hordes of supporters, TV crews and mediapersons to whom he declared: “If any channel is reporting that I am resigning from the post, I will file a defamation case against them. Some of them are reporting I will resign… My mother is my party, I built this party. My high command, my MLAs, my party are there.”
In Delhi, all roads led to 10 Rajaji Marg, which once housed former Presidents APJ Abdul Kalam and Pranab Mukherjee, and is now home to Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge.
As Siddaramaiah waited, ensconsed in his private suite in a nearby hotel and Shivakumar landed at the Delhi airport, Kharge had almost an hour-long one-on-one meeting with Rahul Gandhi.
They were later joined by other leaders — KC Venugopal and Randeep Surjewala. Rahul left this meeting a little later, quietly leaving from the rear door to avoid the swarming media crews at the main gate of Kharge’s residence.
Shivakumar arrived here around 5.30 pm, meeting Kharge for about 50 minutes. As soon as this meeting got over, Siddaramaiah reached. Kharge met him for almost an hour as well but nothing was communicated to the reporters waiting outside.
The Congress top leadership was to meet later in the evening.
Sources said the scales are heavily tilted in Siddaramaiah’s favour because of his stature and overall political morality as also the AHINDA caste calculus, a social combination of minorities, Other Backward Classes and Dalits — that supports him.
Shivakumar has the claim of having built a strong party organisation in Karnataka as also representing the dominant Vokaligga caste.
But what mars his chances are the corruption cases that are still being tried against him in courts. Facing general elections next year, the Congress cannot afford to appoint a Chief Minister facing corruption charges.