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Siddaramaiah finally gets CM’s post in power sharing formula with DK Shivakumar in Congress’s ‘Natak Karnatak’

Siddaramaiah (left) will be Karnataka's new Chief Minister, DK Shivakumar (right) will become the new deputy CM.

Bengaluru:  After four days of intense bargaining in the presence of the party high command in the national capital, Siddaramaiah and DK Shivakumar arrived at a power sharing agreement whereby Siddaramaiah would be the Karnataka chief minister and Shivakumar the deputy chief minister with important portfolios.

The oath-taking ceremony is scheduled to be held in Bengaluru on May 20, with many important Opposition leaders and other Congress CMs being invited to attend.

The consensus was reached in the wee hours of Thursday as party bigwigs, Mallikarjun Kharge, KC Venugopal and Randeep Surjewala held multiple rounds of talks with Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar. After the agreement was reached, Kharge held a video conference with Sonia Gandhi, who is holidaying in Shimla with her daughter, Priyanka Vadhra, and sought her approval. He also obtained the consent of Rahul Gandhi, who was always in favour of Siddaramaiah as chief minister.

Shivakumar, who had refused to buckle under pressure throughout the day, gave his consent only after the party leaders made it clear that he would be the sole choice for deputy chief ministership and he would be allowed to select three or four of his supporting MLAs for ministers’ post.

Sources said Shivakumar also wanted the party to make an announcement that he would take over as chief minister after two-and-a-half years, which was flatly rejected by Siddaramaiah. Finally, Shivakumar was pacified with a verbal assurance that his demand would be considered after the Lok Sabha elections.

   A day of ‘Natak Karnatak’

Earlier, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge’s home at 10, Rajaji Marg had become a theatre for “Nataka Karnatak” as Kharge invited Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar separately in an effort to find an amicable solution. Siddaramaiah, who apparently has the backing of a majority of MLAs and Rahul Gandhi in particular, had a brief 25-minute meeting and came out smiling. He spread the word among his associates and friends that he had an assurance from the party high command that he would be the new chief minister of Karnataka and the oath-taking ceremony would be held on Thursday in Bengaluru.

The television channels immediately ‘flashed’ the news and Siddaramaiah’s supporters got busy at the Kanteerva Stadium in Bengaluru putting up a pandal and rolling out red carpets for the swearing-in function. It was the same venue in May 2013 that Siddaramaiah had taken oath as chief minister and went on to rule for five years. Within minutes, an ‘invitation’ started floating on WhatsApp for the ‘swearing-in ceremony’ from the Governor’s office. It turned out to be a fake one.

When Shivakumar walked in next to meet Kharge, the first question he reportedly asked Kharge was: If you have already decided on offering chief ministership to Siddaramaiah, what is there for us to discuss? Taken aback by Shivakumar’s candour and aggressive tone, Kharge told him that no final decision had been taken and reports of Siddaramaiah’s selection was only a part of the general “gossip.”

The meeting between Kharge and Shivakumar lasted nearly two hours, where the latter made it clear that he had delivered on his promise to Sonia Gandhi when he was made KPCC president and he now expected to be rewarded with the chief minister’s post. He told Kharge bluntly that he had no interest in taking up the deputy chief minister’s post and he would rather remain an ordinary MLA. Shivakumar had also met Rahul Gandhi earlier and made the same points with him.

As hoards of mediapersons followed Shivakumar after his meeting with Kharge seeking his reaction, he refused to answer any questions for a couple of minutes before blurting out on entering his house, “you are all giving ‘bogus’ reports and ‘gossips’ and insulting our honour. I don’t want to say anything to the media.”

Congress in reverse gear

The effect of Shivakumar’s unexpected defiance was immediate and sharp: Congress general secretary Randeep Surjewala, who had indicated to the media earlier that an announcement on the leadership issue would be made at 6 pm, changed his position saying it would take “two more days” for a formal decision. He also instructed Siddaramaiah’s supporters in Bengaluru, who were preparing for the oath-taking ceremony on Thursday, that they should stop work immediately.

As Shivakumar maintained that he would not settle for anything less than chief minister’s post, the imbroglio continued and the party leaders asked both contending parties to remain in Delhi for some more time to find a solution.

Observers noted that the Congress party had ‘blundered’ by dragging the issue and playing it out before the national media. Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, not having the authority to take the final decision without looking over his shoulders on what the Gandhis preferred, presented a pathetic figure. The Karnataka crisis showed that Kharge was only a shadow president and the Gandhis still called all the shots.

The Congress spokespersons who tried to compare the tussle over Karnataka leadership issue with the delay when Yogi Adityanath was chosen as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh for the first time in 2017 seemed to forget that the BJP managed to keep it out of the media glare until the announcement was made, whereas the Congress has allowed its leaders to wash their dirty linen in public and make it a “media circus” for everyone to see, especially those in Karnataka and wonder whether they had made the right choice in electing the Congress party to power.

Also Read: Faction fights, dynastic politics and Congress culture—battle for the CM’s post in Karnataka exposes it all