“I’m the chief minister, I will continue,” stressed a visibly displeased Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah when he was questioned about the rumours of change in guard after completion of 2.5 years — a question that has been hovering since the day he took over the reins of the state for the second time in his political career.
One should understand that Siddaramaiah’s statement may just not be a reply to a journalist’s question but, given the astute politician he is, it certainly is a strong message on who the boss is to leaders batting for DK Shivakumar as the chief ministerial candidate after completion of two-and-a-half years.
Since the day Siddaramaiah convinced the Congress high command that he was better suited to lead Karnataka, there has been speculation that both Shivakumar and Siddaramaiah may assume the CM’s chair on a rotational basis — 30 months each. This may be the very first time that Siddaramaiah has asserted his point this firmly.
On the speculation of having three more deputy chief ministers, Siddaramaiah replied: “Who said so? We are a national party. Decisions on such matters are taken by the high command of the party. We cannot take any decision without discussing it with the high command.”
It is also interesting that the statement comes soon after AICC general secretaries Randeep Singh Surjewala and KC Venugopal cracked the whip and told Congress leaders in Karnataka “not to cross the Lakshman Rekha of the party or face serious disciplinary action”. Surjewala warned Congressmen in Karnataka not to issue public statements on power sharing in the government.
The heat on Congress leaders has been turned up after several statements on the change of leadership were being made by legislators from both camps.
Recently, Chanangiri MLA Basavaraju V Shivaganga commented that Shivakumar would become the chief minister in the coming years. This statement was countered by housing minister Zameer Ahmed Khan who reiterated that Siddaramaiah would continue for the full five-year term.
Then, Karnataka cooperation minister KN Rajanna set political circles abuzz by proposing that posts for three deputy chief ministers must be created to give ample representation to community leaders in the state. He added that it would prove beneficial electorally for the Congress in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. A displeased Shivakumar urged him not to make such public statements.
Siddaramaiah also found support in health minister Dinesh Gundu Rao who entered the fray of this ‘Kissa Kursi Ka’ by praising the former’s performance and stated that he would continue as chief minister for the next five years.
Siddaramaiah had come under fire from MLC BK Hariprasad, who is known to be close to Shivakumar, when he made a veiled dig at the chief minister. Hariprasad alleged that Siddaramaiah “used” OBCs, Muslims, and Dalits as vote bank and forgot about them when it came to giving powerful positions like deputy chief minister.
An upset Hariprasad, who was later censured by the Congress high command, taunted Siddaramaiah by saying “One does not become a Socialist by wearing a Hublot watch, dhoti, and khaki shorts inside”. He further challenged Siddaramaiah to take a decision on making a Dalit a deputy chief minister. “We know how to make or bring the chief minister down,” he jibed.
With inputs from News18