Cong-JD(S) coalition govt to take final shape today

Cong-JD(S) coalition govt to take final shape today

H D Kumaraswamy leaves the Le Meridien hotel, Bengaluru, after attending the JD(S) legislature party meeting on Sunday. DH Photo

Alliance partners, the Congress and the JD(S), are likely to give a final shape to the coalition government on Monday ahead of the swearing-in ceremony of H D Kumaraswamy as chief minister scheduled for Wednesday. 

Kumaraswamy is scheduled to meet the Congress top brass, its president Rahul Gandhi and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, even as hectic parleying on power-sharing is underway in both camps. 

There is no clarity on whether Kumaraswamy will be the only member of the new government to be sworn in. “I will decide who else will take the oath with me based on the outcome of the discussion with the Congress leaders,” Kumaraswamy said after meeting party legislators here. 

It looks like the Congress is in no mood to see its leaders take oath as ministers along with Kumaraswamy for the party wants to first ensure the first hurdle - proving majority on the floor of the House - is cleared. “Only Kumaraswamy will take oath on Wednesday. The coalition will prove its majority the next day. On Friday, ministers will take the oath (after proving majority),” AICC general secretary in-charge of Karnataka K C Venugopal said. 

According to sources, it has been broadly decided that the Congress will get 20 ministerial berths, while the JD(S) will get 14. The Council of Ministers will have 34 members, including the chief minister. This stems from the Congress’s argument that it holds a majority stake in the coalition. With 78 legislators in the coalition, the Congress is keen on ensuring that power-sharing is based on the strength of legislators. 

However, leaders from both parties are ironing out some differences, prominent among them is how independents should be accommodated. The Congress wants all 20 ministerial berths for itself and expects the JD(S) to accommodate independents in its share of 14 berths. The Congress also wants a power-sharing arrangement such that it gets an equal opportunity to run the government.

Both camps are also vying for key portfolios. “What JD(S) MLAs should get is my worry. What Congress MLAs should get is theirs,” Kumaraswamy said. The key portfolios include Finance, Home, Revenue, Rural Development, Water Resources, Transport and Bengaluru Development. 

Besides, both parties are eyeing the Speaker’s chair. Sources said the JD(S) is considering its senior legislator A T Ramaswamy for the post, while the Congress is looking at former minister K R Ramesh Kumar. Some finality is also expected on the 15-member coordination committee that will be set up to ensure semblance in the Congress-JD(S) coalition. A section of Congress leaders wants former chief minister Siddaramaiah to head this panel. 

There was hectic lobbying ahead of Kumaraswamy’s meeting with the Congress high command. For instance, a section of Congress leaders petitioned Siddaramaiah on Sunday to ensure a berth for his son, Varuna MLA Yathindra Siddaramaiah. 

The Congress camp is tight-lipped on the allocation of portfolios. “The party high command will decide that,” Congress leader D K Shivakumar said.