As Congress swept to victory in Karnataka, the question of who will be the Chief Minister will be a huge challenge that the party will have to confront. While KPCC President DK Shivakumar and former CM Siddaramaiah are the two obvious contenders, sources indicated that party President and veteran Mallikarjun Kharge, too, might be in the running. 

Sources in the party close to the development told businessline that the ‘High Command’ an euphemism insiders use for the Gandhi troika — Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka — will try and evolve a consensus. Party observers will try and collect individual opinion of the newly elected legislators but would ultimately leave the choice to the ‘High Command.’

Another formula being touted is that Siddaramaiah and DK Shivakumar would have the chair for 30 months each in rotation like earlier it was decided in Chhattisgarh.  

Congress National President and Dalit leader  Mallikarjun Kharge, who has missed becoming CM at least three times in the past, might emerge as a dark horse and be a consensus candidate in case both DK Shivakumar and Siddaramaiah refuse to agree on rotating the CM-ship proposal, the sources added. 

Both Siddaramaiah and DK Shivakumar have not made any clear remarks on who will take the top position, post winning the polls. Both the leaders have remained tight-lipped and at the most have said that “the decision will be made by the Congress high command after consulting all the winning MLAs of the party.” However, the aspirations of both leaders to be CM have been clear.  

A very tricky decision lies ahead for the party now, to choose between the former CM and party president, or go to Kharge to try and avoid internal conflict. 61-year-old DK Shivakumar is known as the party’s “troubleshooter” and has been with the Congress since the beginning of his political career. He has not lost a single election since his first victory in 1989. However, he also faces multiple corruption charges and was even sent to Delhi’s Tihar Jail before he was released on a bail. 

75-year-old Siddaramaiah, on the other hand, is considered a mass leader with a strong foothold in the State. The seniority card may work for him as he has been emphasising that the 2023 elections would be the last of his political journey. He joined Congress in 2006 from JDS post a fallout. He went on to become the Chief Minister after the 2013 polls.