When Sonia Gandhi gave up charge of the Congress party in October last year, and passed the baton to Mallikarjun Kharge, it was with a sigh of relief. But knowing the way the party works, in private Sonia knew that she would still have to be around.
The four-day-long Karnataka “crisis” has once again showcased the duo who matter, and that its Sonia and Kharge who would have to be the ‘jodi’ to guide and help the party sail through, especially with Lok Sabha elections around next year.
The Sonia-Kharge duo twinned in the last few hours before the Congress officially put a lid on the Karnataka ‘natak’, and announced Siddaramaiah as the chief minister and DK Shivakumar as his deputy.
Actually, the tipping point was when DK Shivakumar’s supporters gave media bites and demanded that he be made the chief minister. This even as DK was meeting Rahul Gandhi and the Gandhis had told him that justice would be done. The Congress president cracked the whip and insisted that the issue needed to be sorted in a couple of hours. Randeep Surjewala was asked to issue a statement in which he said that disciplinary action would be taken against those leaders who made public comments on the CM issue.
Then Kharge spoke to Sonia Gandhi and both KC Venugopal and Randeep Surjewala were asked to meet the two warring Karnataka leaders separately and explain the urgency. The message from the president and the Gandhis was clear – Siddaramaiah would be CM while DK Shivakumar would be the only deputy CM. He would also continue as state party chief till the Lok Sabha polls. This last bit was important because, in an election year, the one who controls the party and distributes tickets has the power.
On the rotation system, the party decided not to go public for two reasons. One, it would make Siddaramaiah look weak. Second, it would increase tensions between the two.
These sources say it was Sonia Gandhi’s idea which Kharge agreed with. Sonia was aware that the Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh examples meant that rotation or even a deputy chief ministership may not be a guarantee of ‘justice’. So she called up DK Shivakumar and assured him that she would never allow a repeat of what happened in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh to him. DK could not say no to Sonia and he blinked first.
This sets a trend. With tough calls coming up in state polls ahead, the two would be called upon to manoeuvre a solution. Sonia may need to postpone her retirement plans and Kharge would still need her by his side.