Congress Legislature Party meeting at 5 pm today; both leaders lobby for top post
Bengaluru: The newly-elected Congress MLAs in Karnataka (Congress Legislature Party – CLP) are meeting at the Conference Hall of the Vidhana Soudha at 5 pm today to discuss the Government formation with leaders eliciting their views on the Chief Ministerial candidate. Conflicting reports also said that the meeting is scheduled for 6 pm at the Shangri-La Hotel in Bengaluru.
Leader of Opposition in the outgoing Assembly Siddharamaiah and Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) President D.K. Shivakumar are strong claimants and front-runners for the coveted post. All the 135 MLAs have been summoned to Bengaluru and they are reaching the State headquarters at the appointed hour. Interestingly, two independents are also joining the meeting.
CLP resolution likely
The CLP is expected to pass a resolution leaving it to the Congress National President or the High Command to decide the Chief Minister pick. Sources said no final decision will be taken today, but views of all MLAs will be ascertained. The next two days will see intense negotiations and bargaining on the issue and both the leaders are reaching out to the ‘loyalist’ MLAs to assert their influence over them.
Congress Karnataka in-charge Randeep Surjewala and K.C. Venugopal are holding talks with the MLAs and Party President Mallikarjun Kharge who is in touch with Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Vadra. Already three meetings have taken place between Kharge and Surjewala.
Sources said that if the opinions of the MLAs are taken, Siddharamaiah will emerge winner and if the party organisation and how the Congress performed after a vigorous campaign and the ground work done by KPCC are taken into consideration, Shivakumar is a hot favourite.
The key point of negotiation would be how the party will suitably accommodate Shivakumar in case Siddharamaiah becomes the CM or Siddharamaiah in case Shivakumar occupies the top post. The High Command may come up with 50:50 formula but the promise of leadership change that was made in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh were not honoured leading to widespread dissatisfaction.
Temple visit and supporter lobby: While Shivakumar has gone with his family and brother, Congress MP from Bengaluru Rural D.K. Suresh, to a temple 120 km away from the State Capital, supporters of Siddharamaiah have put up a poster outside his residence in Bengaluru, referring to him as ‘the next CM of Karnataka’. Shivakumar, along with his family, also visited Nonavinakere Kadasiddeshwara Mutt in Tumakuru to take the blessings of Vrishabha Deshikendra Seer.
Both Shivakumar and Siddharamaiah 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 the two leaders. But the party put a united front and ensured that no rift came out in the open and derailed its prospects.
Shivakumar is the tallest Vokkaliga leader in Karnataka and a trusted lieutenant of the Gandhi family. He is an eight-time MLA, and a ‘trouble shooter’ or a ‘crisis manager’. His whirlwind campaigns across the State resulted in the party registering a thunderous win.
Siddharamaiah, on the other hand, is considered a ‘war horse’ who has been the CM for five years. He also had a stint as Deputy Chief Minister in the Janata Dal Government and has the record of presenting the maximum number of Budgets as the Finance Minister. His long career in politics, administrative acumen and his social justice make him a favourite among the MLAs.
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