In a midnight breakthrough to the stalemate over the top job in Karnataka, Congress has decided to appoint 75-year-old Siddaramaiah as Chief Minister and D. K. Shivakumar as his Deputy in the southern State. The oath-taking ceremony is to take place in Bengaluru on May 20. The Congress Legislature Party (CLP) will meet in Bengaluru in the evening on Thursday following which a formal announcement would be made.
The formula was arrived at about 2 am in Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge’s residence. This followed tense negotiations between Shivakumar, who was not ready to stand down, and the party high command among whom Sonia Gandhi is believed to have played a crucial role in turning him around.
A careful decision
Announcing the decision, party leader K. C. Venugopal said, “After taking the opinion of the MLAs as and consultations with Sonia and Rahuljee, Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge has decided that Siddaramaiah will be Chief Minister of Karnataka. D. K. Shivakumar will be Deputy Chief Minister. He will be the only Deputy CM. Tonight, there will be a CLP meeting and on May 20 at 12.30 pm, the CM, Deputy CM and a Group of Ministers will be sworn in.”
Venugopal said the Congress President took the decision factoring in the “aspirations” of the two claimants.
“Siddaramaiah is a seasoned administrator and he worked tirelessly for the party and towards our victory in Karnataka. Shivakumar electrified our organisation and the cadre for the election. We know that they both had their ambitions and aspirations. But only one person can be CM. We have discussed the issue and resolved it amicably,” he said.
The decision was arrived at after a series of meetings between the two top contenders and the party brass including Malikarjun Kharge, Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, and the two troubleshooters – Congress’s Karnataka in-charge Randeep Singh Surjewala and K. C. Venugopal.
No power sharing
While it is still not clear whether Shivakumar has been soothed by the offer of a rotational CM wherein he gets to occupy the post for the latter part of the term, what is certain is that for the moment, he has agreed to be Deputy CM with portfolios of his choice.
Venugopal denied that there was any power-sharing agreement between Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar. “The only power sharing agreement is between the people of Karnataka and the Congress,” he said.
High drama unfolded past midnight in the Congress quarters with Surjewala first being closeted with Shivakumar and then rushing to meet Kharge with Venugopal. Then, Surjewala and Venugopal rushed to meet Siddaramaiah. After this meeting, Venugopal once against went to see Kharge.
The matter finally got resolved and the Karnataka entourage is now expected to head back to Bengaluru in preparation for the CLP meeting in the evening.
Back to Bengaluru
As the dust settled on the roles of Siddaramaiah and DK Shivakumar in the next government, the political action now shifts to Bengaluru.
The Congress party has sought the Governor Thaawar Chand Gehlot’s time to make its formal claim to form the government. According to reports, the swearing ceremony will take place at the Kanteerava Stadium in the city at 12.30 pm tomorrow.
Arrangements are underway for about two lakh party workers and supporters at the venue.
Portfolios such as Water Resources (Irrigation) and Bengaluru Affairs would go to the DKS camp, said the sources.
(With Venkatesha Babu’s inputs from Bengaluru)