Power-sharing rocks Congress boat in Karnataka

The understanding over the posts of Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister has taken centre stage of political discourse in the state after the Lok Sabha polls.
Congress flag used for representation
Congress flag used for representation

The Congress’ power-sharing arrangement, kept under wraps, has returned to rock the party and its government in Karnataka.

The understanding over the posts of Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister, which was said to have been reached among the party’s top leaders before the formation of its government in May 2023, has taken the centre stage of political discourse in the state after the Lok Sabha polls. While the development has exposed the fissures within the party, seers from the dominant communities joining the issue has made matters worse.

After Congress returned to power with a thumping majority by winning 135 out of 224 seats in the state assembly, Siddaramaiah was made the CM and DK Shivakumar, a strong contender for the top post, became the Deputy CM. Shivakumar also continued as the State Congress president. The buzz was that Congress had worked out an arrangement to share power between the two leaders. However, it is unclear if the understanding was on sharing power for two-and-a-half years each or any other arrangement. The party has neither made anything public nor has it denied it.

Congress flag used for representation
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Now, while some ministers in the Siddaramaiah cabinet are openly talking about the need for creating additional DyCM posts, some are also talking about the change of guard. Vokkaliga seer Chandrashekhar Swamiji of Vishwa Vokkaliga Mahasamsthana Mutt openly batted for Shivakumar to be made the CM, while a noted Lingayat Swamiji Dr Channasiddarama Panditaradhya Shivacharya of Chikkodi felt that the top post be given to a leader from Lingayat community.

Congress flag used for representation
Make DKS CM, Vokkaliga seer tells Siddaramaiah

Cooperation Minister KN Rajanna, an ST Nayaka community leader from Tumakuru is the most vocal among the ministers advocating the need for more DyCMs. Rajanna claims that such a move will help the party take people from different communities into confidence. Housing Minister Zameer Ahmed Khan concurs with his cabinet colleague by stating there is nothing wrong with the demand. Both Rajanna and Khan are considered Siddaramaiah loyalists.

Such remarks from the CM’s camp have not gone down well with the DyCM’s supporters. They see it as a part of a larger plan to diminish Shivakumar’s importance within the party and the government. Some even see it as an attempt to create confusion to derail the power-sharing arrangement. Such developments are unfolding at a time when Shivakumar finds himself on the backfoot after the Congress failed to do well particularly in the Vokkaliga-dominated Lok Sabha seats in the Old Mysuru region in the 2024 LS polls. Except for Hassan and Chamarajnagar [Reserved seat], the party lost all seats in the region, including Bangalore Rural which was won by Shivakumar’s brother DK Suresh in 2019. The dominant Vokkaliga community that had backed Congress and Shivakumar in the 2023 assembly elections seems to have supported the JDS-BJP alliance in the Lok Sabha polls.

Although the party that was hoping to win a majority of the 2024 Lok Sabha seats in the state was restricted to a single digit 9, Shivakumar’s followers assert that Congress did well compared to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls when the party had won just one seat. The LS results, however, have not deterred the state Congress president’s followers within the party. His staunch supporter and Channagiri MLA Basavaraju Shivaganga openly demanded that Shivakumar should be elevated to the top post. Interestingly, the MLA had taken oath in the name of God and DK Shivakumar.

To put an end to the debate that is causing damage to the party and the government’s image, Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar have asked the ministers not to speak about CM or the DyCM issue in public. But the warning is unlikely to have much impact till the party’s high command intervenes. Currently, the Congress central leadership is busy with its agenda to take on the NDA government on various issues, especially NEET, while it is like a free-for-all situation in the Karnataka Congress.

Ironically, the political discourse in Karnataka is mostly hovering around the CM and DyCM issue, while the government is facing flak over alleged multi-crore financial irregularities in the Karnataka Maharshi Valmiki Scheduled Tribes Development Corporation Limited, a state government undertaking, and price rise.

After the fuel price increase, the milk prices in the state were increased by Rs 2. The state government maintains that the Karnataka Milk Federation (KMF) is charging Rs 2 extra for 50 ML additional quantity of milk in 500 ML and one-litre packets. The government contends that the decision to provide additional milk and charge extra was taken to help dairy farmers through greater procurement as milk production has increased drastically. If that was really the case, the government could have taken other measures instead of burdening the consumers by not giving them any option but to pay more.

For now, rising prices and discord in the ruling party over power-sharing have provided enough ammo for the opposition to put pressure on the Siddaramaiah government.

Political radar

Ramu Patil

Assistant Resident Editor

ramu@newindianexpress.com

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