The newly-elected Congress MLAs in Karnataka are meeting here on Sunday evening to discuss government formation with leaders eliciting their views on the Chief Ministerial candidate.
Leader of Opposition in the outgoing Assembly Siddaramaiah and Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee President D K Shivakumar are strong claimants and front-runners for the coveted post.
In the May 10 elections to the 224-member Assembly, the Congress scored an emphatic victory with 135 seats, while the ruling BJP and the former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda-led Janata Dal (Secular) secured 66 and 19, respectively.
The Congress legislature party (CLP) meeting is scheduled to be begin at 5:30 pm today, and the newly elected have already been instructed to come to Benagluru.
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Both the eight-time MLA Shivakumar and former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah have made no secret of their ambition to become CM and had been involved in a game of political one upmanship in the past.
The Congress had entered the campaign phase with the challenge of keeping at bay the factionalism, especially between the camps of Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar, who had been openly rooting for their leaders, but the party put an united front and ensured that no rift came out in open and derail its prospects, under the mentorship of AICC President Mallikarjun Kharge.
Now the task at hand for the AICC leadership is to complete the process of electing the legislature party leader by taking all factions together.
Banners have come up in front of Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar’s residences here, erected by supporters, congratulating them for Congress win and projecting them as ”next CM”. While the 60-year-old Shivakumar, considered to be ”troubleshooter” for the Congress party, Siddaramaiah has a pan-Karnataka appeal.
If Siddaramaiah, who joined Congress after being expelled from JD(S), gets elected as the CLP leader, this will be his second stint as the Chief Minister from the party after having occupied the coveted post for five years between 2013-18. Shivakumar had served as Minister in Siddaramaiah’s cabinet.
According to party sources, the opinion of newly elected legislators will be sought and depending on the outcome, they might be asked to vote to elect their leader, if need arise.
Shivakumar has been openly expressing his Chief Ministerial aspirations at various events, especially the ones connected with Vokkaligas. He had asked the dominant community, to which he belongs, not to lose out an opportunity with him as the KPCC president, while pointing out that S M Krishna was the last Vokkaliga to lead the party in the polls and then went on to become the CM in 1999.
In fact in this election, the Congress’ has significantly improved its electoral performance in the Vokkaliga dominated Old Mysuru region (south Karnataka) and that credit largely goes to Shivakumar.
Also, there have been instances in the party that whoever has successfully led as KPCC President in election, have been the natural choice to be the CM, like in the case of Krishna and Veerendra Patil.
Siddaramaiah, who has seniority on his side, is known for able administratrative skills, and has the experience of having run a successful tenure as the Chief Minister. He also enjoys the distinction of having presented 13 budgets for the state.
Being a mass leader, he has considerable clout among the AHINDA (Kannada acronym for minorities, backward classes and Dalits). The mega 75th birthday bash of Siddaramaiah held last year in Davanagere, was largely seen as an attempt by him and his loyalists to project him as the future CM. Seventy-five-year-old Siddaramaiah who has already announced that this was his last election, has been maintaining that the Chief Minister will be elected by the newly elected MLAs in consultation with the party high command.
There are also other contenders for the post like former Deputy Chief Minister and ex KPCC President G Parameshwara and veteran leader and seven time MP K H Muniyappa– both Dalits, and M B Patil– a Lingayat.