Multiple challenges, particularly with regard to cabinet formation, stare at Siddaramaiah as he takes over as the new chief minister of Karnataka, nudging out party colleague and state Congress president D K Shivakumar — who will now be his deputy.
The first challenge that Siddaramaiah faces on being sworn in is putting in place a cabinet with the right combinations, balancing between representing all communities, regions, factions, and old and new generations of legislators.
With the sanctioned strength of the Karnataka cabinet being 34, Siddaramaiah will have a tough task at hand, with too many aspirants for ministerial berths.
According to party sources, with all major communities largely backing the party in the May 10 Assembly elections, there will naturally be aspirations from every one, and Siddaramaiah will have to manage this along with his deputy Shivakumar.
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There were multiple aspirants for the post of deputy chief minister. However the Congress central leadership has made it clear that Shivakumar will be the only DCM. This has upset several senior leaders in the party.
Senior Congress leader G Parameshwara on Thursday cautioned the party’s central leadership saying if a DCM post is not given to a Dalit, there will be adverse reactions and it would spell trouble for the party.
He said he was an aspirant for both the posts of CM and DCM. Parameshwara, who was DCM in the Congress-JD(S) coalition government, sought the post again, as well as a good number of cabinet berths for Dalits, highlighting that the community has backed the party in a big way.
Lingatyats with 39 MLAs, Vokkaligas with 21, SCs 22, STs 15, Muslims 9 and Kurubas 8 MLAs, along with others are also seeking major roles in the cabinet this time.
The All India Veerashaiva Mahasabha president and veteran Congress leader Shamanur Shivashankarappa, who had written to AICC chief Mallikarjun Kharge recently seeking the CM post for the Veerashaiva-Lingayat community, urged him to give cabinet berths in proportion to the number of MLAs of the community elected in the Assembly polls.
Among the probables whose names are doing rounds for ministerial posts are: K H Muniyappa, G Parameshwara, H C Mahadevappa and Priyank Kharge among the Dalits; M B Patil, Eshwar Khandre, S S Mallikarjun, Laxman Savadi and H K Patil among Lingayats; D K Shivakumar, Krishna Byre Gowda, Cheluvaraya Swamy and H C Balakrishna among Vokkaligas; and Dinesh Gundu Rao and R V Deshpande among the Brahmins.
Also in the race are U T Khader, Zameer Ahmed Khan among Muslims, and Satish Jarkiholi, Ramalinga Reddy, B K Hariprasad and Laxmi Hebbalkar among others.
Once the ministers are decided upon, Siddaramaiah will have the challenging task of portfolio allocation. With several senior legislators having won the elections, the demand for key portfolios will naturally be on the higher side, which the new CM needs would grapple with.
Shivakumar, who has agreed to the Deputy CM post, is likely to ask for certain key portfolios like Bengaluru Development, irrigation and energy for him and his camp.
A series of electoral battles, including to the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) as well as the zilla panchayat and taluk panchayat, are expected before the 2024 Lok Sabha polls..
In 2019, the Congress won just one Lok Sabha seat out of the total 28 in the state in the Parliamentary elections.
Another daunting task that Siddaramaiah is that while maintaining fiscal discipline, he will have to implement the promises made in the Congress’s election manifesto, especially the five ‘guarantees’.
The Congress has promised to implement the ‘guarantees’ — 200 units of free power to all households (Gruha Jyoti), Rs 2,000 monthly assistance to the woman head of every family (Gruha Lakshmi), 10 kg of rice free to every member of a BPL household (Anna Bhagya), Rs 3,000 every month for graduate youth and Rs 1,500 for diploma holders (both in the age group of 18-25) for two years (YuvaNidhi), and free travel for women in public transport buses (Shakti), on the very first day of assuming power in the state.
Several Congress leaders are confident that Siddaramaiah, with his vast administrative experience and deep knowledge about the state’s finances — having presented 13 budgets — will be able to manage all these challenges efficiently.