For a party that is in the habit of scoring self-goals, the Congress did nothing wrong in Karnataka, as it wrested power in the State from the BJP by getting a clear majority in the Assembly elections.
As the race for the Chief Minister’s post began, the shock defeat of KPCC president G Parameshwara catapulted Congress Legislature Party leader Siddaramaiah into the pole position to stake claim for the hot seat. His only visible rival for the post is Union Labour Minister Mallikajrun M Kharge.
The invisible hats in the ring, however, are many. Union Ministers M Veerappa Moily and K H Muniyappa have flung theirs in, while AICC general secretary Oscar Fernandes’ closeness to Congress president Sonia Gandhi has always been there in the background.
The Congress brass, which met in Delhi to discuss the victory, will send observers, including AICC general secretary Madhusudhan Mistry, to debate the matter. “We are yet to finalise the dates of the meeting. We will elicit the opinion of MLAs and take a decision in a democratic manner,” Mistry said. Kharge refused to answer queries on whether he is an aspirant, but Siddaramaiah made it clear that he is “one of the strong contenders for the post”. Leaders have started garnering support of the party MLAs. About 25 MLAs from the Hyderabad-Karanataka region have pledged their support for Kharge.
“He has been a loyal party man for decades and is a good administrator. He succeeded in bringing the party to victory in North Karnataka,” a Kharge supporter said. An AICC source said that “seniority and loyalty” could fetch Kharge the job as “Siddaramaiah is just six-years-old in the Congress”.
Siddaramaiah is also said to have mustered enough numbers. Besides, there are “promises” from the party brass to make him the Chief Minister. A leader candidly added: “Siddaramaiah, if denied the post, is the only person who can create problems for the party. Everyone else will fall in line.”
A source said the new government may be in place by the first half of next week. With as many as 34 former ministers, the party may find it difficult to accommodate everyone. The Cabinet is likely to be more experienced than that of the previous three governments.
The Congress sailed through effortlessly, romping home with 121 seats while the BJP and the JD (S) stood a joint second with 40 seats each in the 223 seats that went to polls on Sunday.
The results proved that there was no future for parties floated nursing individual ambitions. Former Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa’s tall claims of making an impact on the state polity failed miserably; his party KJP managed to win just six seats while B Sreeramulu’s BSR Congress won a meagre four seats.