Siddaramaiah vs DK Shivakumar: Congress could announce the name of the Karnataka CM today
The suspense over the Karnataka Chief Minister's post after the Congress's emphatic victory in the assembly elections continued today, with party chief Mallikarjun Kharge meeting the two contenders -- DK Shivakumar and Siddaramaiah -- this evening. The meetings, though, were inconclusive. Mr Kharge is trying to strike a balance and another round of meetings will be held tomorrow, sources said. Mr Shivakumar and Mr Siddaramaiah have been asked to stay in Delhi.
In the meeting with Mr Kharge, Mr Shivakumar has made it clear that he would not back down in the tense rivalry with former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, sources said. Mr Siddaramaiah, though, has the support of a majority of MLAs, sources said.
Mr Siddaramaiah had spent much of yesterday in Delhi, where he met with senior Congress leaders amid speculation that he is the frontrunner in the race for the top post. Asked when there would be an announcement, he said, "Let's wait and see. I don't know".
The party's leadership have been briefed on the views of the newly elected MLAs by the team of observers sent to the state. Mr Kharge and senior leaders Rahul Gandhi and KC Venugopal later held talks on the knotty question of the top post, which could affect the party's prospects in the next year's general election.
Settling for either of the two contenders may lead to alienating the other, as well as their support base – within the party and out. In DK Shivakumar's case, it could mean a large section of the politically crucial Vokkaligas. In case of Mr Siddaramaiah, it could mean a chunk of MLAs backing him, and the AHINDA platform -- an old social combination of minorities, Other Backward Classes, and Dalits, which had voted en masse for the Congress.
Sources have said the party could announce the name of the next Karnataka Chief Minister over the next 24 hours.
The politically crucial Lingayat community, meanwhile, has staked claim to the Chief Minister's post. In a letter addressed to Mr Kharge, the Lingayat organisation All India Veerashaiva Mahasabha pointed out that 34 of the 46 Lingayat leader fielded by the Congress have won. "We now urge the Congress party to give a chance/consider (a) Veerashaiva Lingayat community leader for the post of Chief Minister," they wrote.
Mr Shivakumar, who cancelled his visit last night citing a stomach infection, arrived in Delhi this afternoon. "The party is my god...We have built this party, I am a part of it and I am not alone in this," he said before flying out of Bengaluru.
"We have built this party (Congress), we have built this house. I am a part of it...A mother will give everything to her child," he added, indicating that he expected the party to reward him for his role in Congress's Karnataka victory.
But he repeated that he would not rebel. "If the party wants, they can give me the responsibility... Ours is a united house, our number is 135. I don't want to divide anyone here. Whether they like me or not, I am a responsible man. I will not backstab and I will not blackmail," Mr Shivakumar asserted.
In assembly election held last week, the Congress won a clear majority in Karnataka, finishing with 135 seats in the 224-member assembly. Its celebrations were, however, tempered with anxiety over the Siddaramaiah-versus-Shivakumar contest for the top job.
Mr Siddaramaiah, 75, is a former Chief Minister and Mr Shivakumar, 61, is the party's Karnataka chief. Both claim to have a majority of MLAs backing their claim to the chief minister's post.
While Mr Siddaramaiah is seen to be a leader with mass appeal and completed a full term in 2013-18, Mr Shivakumar is known for his strong organisational capabilities, and is considered resourceful and Congress' troubleshooter during tough times.
Sources close to Mr Shivakumar, however, insist that Mr Siddaramaiah has "never been a party man and has never won any elections for the party".