Karnataka Congress president DK Shivakumar, whose rivalry with state Opposition Leader Siddaramaiah is a big headache for the party in the state, has suggested that he is ready to work with Mallikarjun Kharge is the latter becomes the chief minister in the event of a Congress win.
Assembly elections in the state are due on May 10. While the Congress has avoided declaring the CM candidate, the rivalry between the two leaders came out in the open yet again during the selection of poll candidates.
However, chances of Kharge becoming the chief minister are extremely slim. His hands are full as the All India Congress Committee (AICC) chief though he has, in the past, been in the reckoning for the post. He could have been the CM in 2008, but the Congress lost the polls. In 2013, the party wanted an OBC face for the CM’s post, which went to Siddaramaiah.
However, this time, the party reportedly wants a Dalit candidate for the Karnataka CM’s post, which would give Kharge an outside chance. The southern state has never had a Dalit CM and having one would send out a positive signal ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
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“Kharge is an asset”
Shivakumar made the statement while replying to a question at a press briefing on Saturday (April 8). Asked about the possibility of Kharge being the CM, Shivakumar said, “Mallikarjun Kharge is my leader. He is my president. Kharge is 20 years my senior. We have to respect his seniority and sacrifices. In the event of him becoming CM of Karnataka, I am ready to work with him.”
Shivakumar added, “Kharge is an asset to the nation and the state. I will abide by any decision that the party takes. He resigned at midnight as the Opposition leader. From a block leader, he has become the national president of the Congress. This can happen only in the Congress. I will work with happiness if he is made the CM.”
While Kharge has already said that the CM candidate will be decided after the polls, former CM Siddaramaiah has also avoided the question. “The choice of the CM is never decided before the polls because it leads to infighting,” Kharge had said last month.
Party pacifying dissenters
Already, the party is grappling with dissenters who have not got tickets even after the announcement of the second list of candidates on April 6. Twelve leaders are threatening to contest the polls as rebels. At Saturday’s press meet, Shivakumar said the party was talking to the dissidents.
“We have not been able to give tickets to everybody. (But) Politics is about sharing and caring,” Shivakumar said. “If we form the government, there will be many posts in the councils, the boards, and corporations. We are asking them to be patient. It is natural for people to be angry since they have been waiting for a few years and new candidates have been accommodated.”
The Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) chief said the Congress has tried to do justice to all sections of society. “We have spoken to our people and not relied on survey reports alone. In some cases, we have gone by the social justice yardstick. We have to give tickets to SC right, SC left, minorities, Christians, Jains, OBC, Vokkaligas, and Lingayats. We have not been able to back all the communities.”
He added that Lingayats “would get a bigger share of the seats this time”. Of the 166 candidates so far, 43 are Lingayats.
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According to Shivakumar, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s frequent visits to Karnataka indicate the BJP’s weakness in the state. “They are trying their best but have also realized that they are going to suffer a loss; so, they are trying to make up,” he said.
Commenting on Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s Kolar rally getting postponed to April 16, Shivakumar said, “Rahul Gandhi stated that he wants to give a speech at the exact place where his previous speech resulted in a case being filed against him. He had given us a date. But since we are in the middle of deciding the election process and candidates, we asked him to push it forward by a week and he agreed.”
(With agency inputs)