Bengaluru: Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Sunday said while he is willing to stay on as the Chief Minister for another term, he would step aside for a Dalit candidate if the party high command so desires. Amid the exit polls' prediction of a split verdict where Janata Dal Secular chief Deve Gowda will emerge kingmaker, the comment indicates the Congress is considering ways to get the former Prime Minister on their side.
- Dalit leaders have a strong presence in the Congress
- DK Shivakumar indicated question of chief ministership is open
- Siddaramaiah said this was his last election, "come what may"
Mr Deve Gowda is not fond of the Chief Minister, who once belonged to his party and was sacked. For his support to the Congress, Mr Siddaramaiah's exit from the top post is seen as a possible precondition. Mr Deve Gowda's party has said it is the Congress' "responsibility" to reach out if it did not get majority.
The former Prime Minister, who had alliances with both Congress and the BJP earlier, has ruled out an alliance with the BJP. Ahead of the election, he formed a tie-up with Dalit powerhouse Mayawati, which will extend to the Lok Sabha elections.
Dalit leaders have a strong presence in the Congress, foremost among whom are Mallikarjun Kharge and G Parameshwara.
Asked on Sunday about reports that a Dalit will be made the Chief Minister if Congress gets majority, Mr Siddaramaiah said he has no objection and will leave the decision to the party high command. But the 69-year-old was quick to add a rider. "I am not against anybody. You see, even the MLAs also have to give their opinion".
On Saturday, Mr Siddaramaiah's cabinet colleague DK Shivakumar indicated that the question of chief ministership is open in the event of the Congress forming government. In an interview with NDTV, the power minister, one of the wealthiest members in the assembly, said, "We will decide who will be Chief Minister later. But Siddaramaiah is our leader".
Asked if he would be amenable to negotiations with the JD(S), Mr Shivakumar, who shares his Vokkaliga roots with Mr Deve Gowda, was guarded. "Don't want to discuss this further. But the Congress will form government," he said.
Mr Siddaramaiah had earlier said Congress chief Rahul Gandhi had persuaded him to contest this assembly election. On Sunday, he said this was his last election, "come what may".