The Congress injected all its energies to resolve the leadership tangle in Karnataka as the two contenders for the chief minister’s post – Siddaramaiah and DK Shivakumar – refused to give in after leading the party to a grand victory in the state assembly elections.
It needed all the diplomatic efforts and persuasive skills of the Congress leadership to ensure the issue was finally resolved to everyone’s satisfaction, with known foes Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar finally holding hands.
Involved in the exercise to bring peace to the Karnataka unit were Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, former presidents Sonia Gandhi as well as Rahul Gandhi, besides general secretaries KC Venugopal and Randeep Surjewala.
Once the Congress won the Karnataka battle on May 13, both Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar began garnering support of the MLAs.
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Fight builds up
The supporters built the momentum, triggering a poster war.
As the race heated up, Kharge named three observers – Sushilkumar Shinde, Jitendra Singh and Deepak Babaria. The first meeting of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) was held on May 14.
Outside the venue, supporters of both the leaders raised slogans in support of their leaders. Finally, all the Congress MLAs authorised the party chief to appoint a leader of the CLP, who will be the new chief minister. Accordingly, the scene shifted from Bengaluru to Delhi.
The observers held one-on-one consultations with the newly elected MLAs and sought a secret ballot, the results of which were shared with party chief.
With Siddaramaiah emerging as the frontrunner, the party asked him and Shivakumar to reach Delhi for consultations. Siddaramaiah arrived on Monday (May 15). Shivakumar cancelled the meeting citing health issues.
Eventually, Shivakumar, the Congress president in Karnataka, arrived the next day.
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On Tuesday (May 16), Rahul Gandhi joined the consultation process, meeting Kharge as well as the two main contenders on Wednesday. In the meantime, Shivakumar and Siddaramaiah also spoke to Sonia Gandhi, who was away in Shimla.
Sonia Gandhi told Shivakumar to speak to Kharge and Rahul Gandhi. The hectic parleys which began on Monday continued till early Thursday. Rahul Gandhi told both the leaders to work out a solution with Kharge.
Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar then sorted out their differences. The deadlock was broken when it was decided that Siddaramaiah would be the chief minister and Shivakumar his deputy.
It was decided that confidantes of both the leaders would be accommodated in the government. Shivakumar would continue as the state Congress chief till the general elections next year.
The chief minister and his deputy along with over 20 ministers will take oath on May 20 in Bengaluru.
(With agency inputs)