INC selects Siddaramaiah as Karnataka CM, Shivakumar to be his deputy

The Congress broke the logjam over the Karnataka chief minister's post by choosing Siddaramaiah for the job and DK Shivakumar as his deputy.

INC selects Siddaramaiah as Karnataka CM, Shivakumar to be his deputy

The Indian National Congress (INC) leadership finally managed to break the impasse regarding Karnataka’s chief minister’s post by selecting Siddaramaiah for the post and state Congress chief DK Shivakumar as his only deputy. The INC announced the decision on Thursday, May 18th, ending the tussle over the top slot between Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar after the party swept the Karnataka Assembly elections.

While the majority of the INC’s members of the legislative assembly (MLAs) were supporting Siddaramaiah, the state party chief remained obstinate on his claim over the top seat. Shivakumar demanded the top job for the state from the party’s high command based on his loyalty to the party and for building the organisation strong enough to defeat the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The INC leadership, especially party chief Mallikarjun Kharge, was in a precarious position and had to tread the course extremely carefully. The INC leadership knew that both contenders are heavyweights and it can’t ignore either of them.

The 75-year-old Siddaramaiah, who was the chief minister of Karnataka from 2013 to 2018, has vast experience in running the government and managing diverse caste-class interests in the complex landscape of the state. Siddaramaiah belongs to the other backward caste (OBC) community, which is a powerful vote bank in the state, and has a strong influence on Dalits, OBCs and Muslims.

Having Siddaramaiah at the top post isn’t merely the demand of the INC MLAs, but it also reflects the party’s compulsion before the 2024 Lok Sabha elections when it will have to fight a tough battle with the BJP. The INC’s former chief and former member of Parliament (MP) Rahul Gandhi has been convicted by a court in Gujarat in a defamation case over his comment on people with the Modi surname, targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The BJP accused the former MP of insulting the OBC community, from which the prime minister claims he belongs, and that can snowball into a catastrophe for the party. Hence, having Siddaramaiah, an OBC, at the top post of the state where Gandhi made the statement during the 2019 Lok Sabha election campaigning that cost him his MP seat, can help the party to appease the community.

Shivakumar hails from the Vokkaliga community in the state, which had been a traditional vote bank of the Janata Dal (Secular) [JD(S)]. Installing a Vokkaliga in the top seat of the state would have made the community happy, but could have antagonised the OBCs and the powerful Lingayat community, whose vote was split between the INC and the BJP in the recent elections.

Moreover, apart from his organisational skills, Shivakumar doesn’t have any administrative experience, which is necessary for the INC to address the diverse aspirations of different groups in Karnataka and to win the trust of the industries, especially the information and technology industry that has its hub in the state capital Bengaluru.

For the INC, the loyalty of Shivakumar, who had to go to jail under the BJP’s rule, was less significant than losing someone like Siddaramaiah, who, it feared, may switch to the BJP or the JD(S) along with his loyal MLAs if the top post wasn’t assigned to him. Siddaramaiah wanted Shivakumar to enter a power-sharing arrangement so that they both can remain chief ministers for a fixed term.

However, after burning its hands in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, where an internal feud over the chief minister’s post rocked the party’s governments—and in Madhya Pradesh, the government was toppled—and paved the way to instability, the INC leadership was in no mood to allow any instability factor to remain in Karnataka. It decided to reinstall Siddaramaiah as the chief minister.

After announcing its decision to appoint Siddaramaiah as the chief minister of Karnataka, in the presence of Shivakumar, the INC leadership also announced that the swearing-in ceremony of the new cabinet will take place on May 20th in the presence of like-minded parties.

The INC has won 135 out of 224 seats in the Karnataka Assembly in the recent elections, while the BJP managed to win 66 seats. Organisational secretary KC Venugopal said that all leaders of the INC, both national and state, worked hard to make the party’s victory a reality in Karnataka.

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