The Congress may be inching towards securing a victory in the Karnataka lections as per the latest trends but for the Grand Old Party, this will not be the end of challenges in the state. A win in Karnataka, if it happens, means the Congress is staring at its next speed breaker — who will be the chief minister?
In the Grand Old Party, the situation at present can be best described by the Hindi idiom ‘Ek Anaar Sau Bimaar’ — multiple contenders for the coveted CM crown — making it difficult for the Congress to enjoy its hard-earned victory.
Though the Gandhis made every effort to put up a united show in the state amid buzz of growing rivalry between Siddaramaiah and DK Shivakumar, insiders say the Congress has been unable to quell the disquiet. Given that veteran Siddaramaiah has already declared the 2023 polls his last election, it is no secret that he is harbouring ambitions of climbing the steps of the Vidhan Souda as chief minister once again. On the other hand is Shivakumar, equally desirous of the top post that he feels he has worked hard towards.
Siddaramaiah, the Congress warhorse, donning is favourite classic white ‘panche’ (dhoti) and crisp white kurta with a gold-bordered angavastra (traditional shawl), made headlines during the campaigning for the Karnataka elections. He stole the limelight as he declared the 2023 polls his last electoral battle. On the issue of one-upmanship between him and Shivakumar, Siddaramaih had denied any differences. “He is an aspirant, I’m also an aspirant. In a democracy, anyone can have aspirations. I don’t think it is wrong to have an aspiration in democracy. The opinion will be collected after the election; based on the opinion of the MLAs the high command will take a decision (on CM),” he had said. Siddaramaiah, who belongs to the Kuruba community, has also emerged as the undisputed leader of the AHINDA (a Kannada acronym for Alpasankhyataru or minorities, Hindulidavaru or Backward classes, and Dalitaru or Dalits).
Often seen with the Gandhis, D K Shivakumar rose to fame in 2017 when Sonia Gandhi’s long-time advisor, the late Ahmed Patel, faced a tough Rajya Sabha election. As the counting was on, media persons and observers camped at the Taj Hotel in Ahmedabad noticed a quiet man who was clearly not a Gujarati. He was constantly on the phone, ensuring that the Congress MLAs were kept safely together, away from the prying eyes of the BJP. The task for DK, as he is called in political circles, was to ensure no MLA was poached. Ahmed Patel won in a stunner and DK ‘the silent trouble-shooter’ was born. What endeared DK to the senior leadership was also the fact that the Karnataka leg of the Bharat Jodo yatra by Rahul Gandhi was one of the best organised and successful ones. Asked about his battle with Siddaramaiah for the CM’s chair, he said: “The fact is that the Congress leadership is united and the party workers are very active in spreading our message both on the ground and in social media. We are putting a combined effort to ensure that the Congress comes back to power with a clear majority. For me, the party comes first and the chief ministership comes later. On the CM issue, I will abide by whatever the party decides.”
Throwing his hat into the ring, senior Congress leader G Parameshwara had also acknowledged that he is among the chief ministerial aspirants in the event of the party coming to power after the Assembly elections in Karnataka. The five-time MLA maintained that the party high command will decide on the next CM after the party wins the election, and said, given an opportunity he is ready. “We don’t appoint Chief Minister on the basis of one’s caste; whoever is capable in the given situation, whoever has the capability to fulfill the party’s mission and its principles, based on that, the CM will be chosen, not on the basis of whether someone is a dalit or from other caste,” Parameshwara said responding to a question on possibility of a Dalit CM if Congress comes to power. Asked about his chief ministerial aspiration, he said: “Why am I doing politics? To come to power…everyone has aspirations, about 10 people have aspirations in our party, I’m also one among them.” Parameshwara, a Dalit, was Deputy Chief Minister during Congress-JD(S) coalition government led by HD Kumaraswamy. He was also the longest-serving KPCC chief (eight years) and has a PhD in plant physiology from the Waite Agriculture Research Centre of the University of Adelaide.
Karnataka Congress president DK Shivakumar surprised many by declaring that he would be willing to work under party’s national president Mallikarjun Kharge if he was elected chief minister. “Mallikarjun Kharge is my leader. He is my president. Kharge is 20 years my senior. We have to respect his seniority and sacrifices. In the event of him becoming CM of Karnataka, I am ready to work with him.” He added: “Kharge is an asset to the nation and the state. I will abide by any decision that the party takes. He resigned at midnight as the opposition leader. From a block leader, he has become the national president of the Congress. This can happen only in the Congress. I will work with happiness if he is made the CM.” Kharge was previously considered for the position twice, but missed out as the Congress lost the elections in 2008 and in 2013, Siddaramaiah was chosen as the OBC face for the position. Kharge’s name started doing the rounds amid discussions within the party suggested that they may appoint a Dalit CM in Karnataka ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
With inputs from News18