Bengalur: The Congress, which scored a big victory in the Karnataka Assembly elections by winning 136 of the 224 seats and reducing the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to a poor second with just 65 seats, faces a tough task in choosing a chief minister.
There are two strong contenders for the post — former chief minister Siddaramaiah and Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee chief DK Shivakumar — and the party's high command has called for a meeting of all the winning candidates to decide on who will be the legislative party leader. The final decision, however, will probably to be left to the party high command.
Congress cautious about Shivakumar
The Congress is a bit cautious about Shivakumar as he has a series of ED cases pending against him and these could be brought up by Delhi to embarrass the Congress.
Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge strongly supports Shivakumar as he has been always loyal to the party, unlike Siddaramaiah who was once with the JD(S), according to sources. Moreover, Shivakumar helped the party high command on numerous occasions when the BJP tried to poach the MLAs in other states.
Besides, this will be the eighth consecutive win for Shivakumar, who also has the support of Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Vadra.
After the poll trends indicated a Congress victory, Shivakumar broke down and thanked the Gandhi family for “reposing their faith in his leadership” and said he had “delivered”, indirectly staking claim to the chief minister's post.
Another factor working in Shivakumar's favour is that he is a Vokkaliga, a community that the BJP has been desperately wooing. As such, he could neutralise the influence of Janata Dal (S) leader Deve Gowda on the community.
What works against Shivakumar is that some people in the Congress are against him.
Hard to ignore Siddaramaiah
The party high command cannot also ignore the 75-year-old Siddaramaiah, who had declared that this will be his last electoral outing. As Shivakumar has a long political innings ahead, the high command can afford to put him on a waiting list.
Moreover, Siddaramaiah has been a chief minister and has the support of the masses.
Siddaramaiah earlier said that the choice of the chief minister would be made in a democratic manner. The elected MLAs will vote and decide, he said, adding that the final decision will be taken by the Congress high command.
However, on Saturday, Siddaramaiah's son Yathindra asserted that his father should become the next chief minister. “As a son, I definitely would like to see him as a chief minister. As a resident of the state, his last regime had very good governance and this time also, if he becomes the chief minister, he whatever corruption and misrule was there during the BJP rule will be brought to an end by him. He should become the chief minister in the interest of the atate also,” Yathindra said.
Like Siddaramaiah, Shivakumar has also said he will leave it to the newly-elected MLAs and the "high command" to take a call on who would be the next chief minister.
Earlier, there was also talk of Kharge taking up the chief ministerial post to quell the fight between Shivakumar and Siddaramaiah. Shivakumar had suggested the name of Kharge for the post and said he would not mind working under his leadership. However, this is seen as a ploy by Shivakumar to queer the pitch for Siddaramiah.
However, Kharge is not keen on giving up his position as AICC chief, according to sources. “When I am in a capacity to appoint you as a chief minister, why would I say that I should become the chief minister. I am not the aspirant for Karnataka chief ministership, I appoint chief ministers,” he is reported to have said.