Siddaramaiah to be CM
To take oath on Monday, meets Sonia next week over Cabinet formation
Siddaramaiah will be Karnataka’s new chief minister following his election as Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader in a secret ballot, edging out party veteran and Union Labour Minister Mallikarjun Kharge.
Siddaramaiah will be sworn in as the State’s 22nd chief minister on Monday morning. He will take the oath of office alone and undertake Cabinet formation after meeting Congress president Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi next week. KPCC president G Parameshwara is scheduled to accompany him to Delhi.
Sixty-four-year-old Siddaramaiah was announced the CLP leader by Defence Minister A K Antony at a meeting attended by 121 newly elected Congress MLAs, party MPs and Legislative Council members at the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) office. Antony headed a four-member observer team of the AICC, which oversaw the exercise of selecting the CLP leader.
Supporters of Siddaramaiah had assembled in large numbers near the Congress Bhavan. The chorus in his favour was so intense that the party would have found it difficult to take any other decision than settling for Siddaramaiah.
The Congress, for the first time in the State, sought the views of the newly elected legislators on their choice of leadership in writing. The legislators preferred Siddaramaiah to Kharge at a meeting held prior to the CLP meet, it is said. While there was no official announcement on the number of votes polled, as it was a secret ballot, party sources said Siddaramaiah secured 80, and Kharge 38. Two legislators opted for D K Shivakumar, while R V Deshpande was the preferred choice of another, sources said.
Siddaramaiah moved a resolution authorising Congress chief Sonia Gandhi to take a decision on leadership. MLAs Shamanoor Shivashankarappa, H K Patil, D K Shivakumar and Roshan Baig seconded the resolution. But eventually, a secret ballot was conducted as Antony insisted for it, though it was known that a majority of the MLAs were aligned with Siddaramaiah.
Antony is understood to have called Sonia and briefed her about the legislators’ choice.
He soon got the green signal to announce Siddaramaiah’s name. This is something unprecedented in the State Congress as the party hitherto followed the tradition of announcing the name of the chief minister in New Delhi.
It is said that while Kharge was the high command’s first choice, it did not want to go against the tide. Siddaramaiah is known for his aggressive but candid talk. This is the first time a leader belonging to the Kuruba community will be taking the reins of the State. Kurubas form the third largest community in the State.
It is also said that Kharge knew that he stood no chance on Thursday itself. A disappointed Kharge left the Congress office and refused to take queries from the media.
The party central leadership is contemplating offering him the railways portfolio in the next Union Cabinet reshuffle. This is the second time that the chief minister’s post has eluded Kharge.
Other chief minister aspirants, including D K Shivakumar, R V Deshpande and KPCC President G Parameshwara, are also likely to get plum portfolios. Besides ministership, Parameshwara will also be made an MLC as he had lost the Assembly polls, sources said.
Voice of downtrodden
A majority of the legislators are said to have preferred Siddaramaiah for his “no-nonsense approach” though the “outsider” tag weighed against him. Siddaramaiah joined the Congress seven years ago in sharp contrast to Kharge’s 44 years in the party.
But he is seen as the voice of backward classes and a good organiser. He has already declared that the 2013 Assembly election would be the last he is going to face though he would remain active in politics.
Siddaramaiah never made an effort to hide his chief ministerial ambition ever since he joined the Congress. He snapped his two-decade association with the Janata Parivar after he felt that former prime minister H D Deve Gowda had scuttled his chances of becoming chief minister in the Congress-JD(S) coalition government.
Having realised his ambition, Siddaramaiah will have to tread his path cautiously in running the government and also keep the seniors in good humour.
Soon after Siddaramaiah’s name was declared as the CLP leader, AICC general secretary and in-charge of Karnataka affairs Madhusudan Mistry and Parameshwara drove to Raj Bhavan and conveyed to Governor H R Bhardwaj the CLP decision and requested him to invite Siddaramaiah to form the government. Parameshwara told the governor that new leader was “unanimously” elected.