This Article is From May 18, 2023

3 Reasons Why Siddaramaiah Won And 3 Reasons Why DK Shivakumar Did Too

Karnataka Congress president DK Shivakumar worked extremely hard, invested enormous effort and resources and has a huge stake in the Congress victory, but he will have to bide his time.

Longevity of the agreement will depend entirely on 2024 Lok Sabha election results


Both Siddaramaiah and DK Shivakumar were in the running for the Karnataka Chief Minister's post, but it was clear from the start that Siddaramaiah had the edge. Karnataka Congress president DK Shivakumar worked extremely hard, invested enormous effort and resources, and has a huge stake in the Congress victory, but he will have to bide his time.
The longevity of the détente will depend entirely on the 2024 Lok Sabha election results, both in Karnataka and nationally.

Though former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had a clear advantage in this tussle, the deal is lucrative for DK Shivakumar too.

1. DK Shivakumar faces Income Tax and Enforcement Directorate cases related to assets disproportionate to his known sources of income. There is a strong possibility of the central government aggressively pursuing these cases. The optics of a Chief Minister ambushed by cases like these will be detrimental to the Congress ahead of the 2024 elections, especially as the party won on a strong "40 percent sarkar" campaign that focused on corruption allegations against the outgoing BJP government.

Even as the Congress was confabulating on who will be Chief Minister, the Supreme Court deferred its hearing on the CBI's plea challenging an interim stay on the probe into DK Shivakumar's alleged illegal wealth. This is a reminder that the cases are alive and there is a shadow hanging over him. This was always a major and decisive factor against him in the race for the top job in Karnataka.

2. Siddaramaiah is the tallest mass leader among all legislators in Karnataka. His appeal cuts across different regions of Karnataka and he has always had the support of a majority of Congress MLAs. His stature and his experience - he completed a full term - worked in his favour. He would have been the obvious choice, had it not been for the strong challenge from the state Congress president. In fact, many former cabinet ministers were firmly in favour of Siddaramaiah as he is a tested administrator.

3. Given that DK Shivakumar is from the OBC Vokkaliga caste, by naming him Chief Minister the Congress could have alienated other caste groups in the party. After its emphatic victory in the polls, with a historic vote share of over 42 percent that would include all social sections, the Congress could not risk alienating non-Vokkaliga voices.

Siddaramaiah's appointment may not go down well with the Vokkaliga caste groups, but a powerful accommodation for Shivakumar as his deputy could offset that negative. The converse wouldn't have worked.

4. The scales were heavily tilted towards Siddaramaiah, but it was Shivakumar's hard bargaining that forced the Congress to make an exception to the "one man, one post" rule and let Shivakumar continue as the state Congress president and Deputy Chief Minister.

This gives him considerable influence over the cabinet and a firm hold over the party.

5. Mr Shivakumar is also expected to get key portfolios for himself and those close to him. This is to ensure that the power balance in the cabinet is not skewed.

6. During Siddaramiah's previous term (2013-2018), he refused to even induct Mr Shivakumar in the cabinet in the first year. There was a sense that Siddaramaiah is authoritarian, and veteran party leaders, including Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge, were sidelined in the state.

In many ways, Mr Shivakumar's tough talk, backed by some senior leaders, was focused on containing Siddaramaiah's control. They knew he was likely to win the race but they wanted to make sure he didn't have untrammeled control. This objective seems to have been achieved and Mr Shivakumar is poised to be a strong force in the cabinet and the party. This also makes sure that after the 2024 polls, if a change has to be enforced, the power balance is not tilted towards the Chief Minister.

Arguably, the Congress has managed a solution that's the best possible outcome for both contenders. However, both Siddaramaiah and Mr Shivakumar are from the Old Mysore region and the challenge for the Congress now is to ensure representation from all regions and social groups in the cabinet. Those optics are essential in the run-up to 2024.

Ultimately, a year is a very long time in Indian politics and the Congress may feel compelled to revisit this compromise formula after the 2024 polls.