Rahul Gandhi At Congress Meet As Karnataka Chief Minister Dilemma Deepens

Following the party’s big victory in Karnataka on Saturday, Congress leader DK Shivakumar made it clear that he would not back down in his tense rivalry with Siddaramaiah. Regardless of the party’s decision, he said he wouldn’t resort to “backstabbing or blackmail”.

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While in Delhi yesterday, Siddaramaiah met with Congress leaders amid reports that he was closer to the finish line than his younger colleague. We’ll have to wait and see. Asked when an announcement would be made, he cautiously replied, “I don’t know.”.

The Karnataka chief minister issue is currently being discussed by Mallikarjun Kharge, Rahul Gandhi, and KC Venugopal. Mr Kharge will then meet with both Mr Shivakumar and Mr Siddaramaiah.

A team of observers briefed the party’s leadership yesterday on the views of the newly elected Karnataka MLAs. The Congress held a secret vote on Sunday, whose results were reportedly presented to the party president, who will make the final call.

Sources say the party could announce the next Karnataka Chief Minister within 24 hours. Bringing Mr Shivakumar on board is the biggest challenge.

Shivakumar arrived in Delhi today after canceling his visit last night at the last minute due to a stomach infection. As he left Bengaluru, he said, “The party is my god…I am a part of it and I am not alone.”.

We (Congress) built this house. I am a part of it…” he said, implying that he expected Congress to reward him for his role in Karnataka’s victory.

However, he reiterated that he would not rebel. We are a united house, our number is 135. I don’t want to divide anyone here. Whether they like me or not, I am a responsible man. I won’t backstab and I won’t blackmail,” Mr Shivakumar stated.

Last week, the Congress won a clear majority in Karnataka, with 135 seats out of 224. The celebrations were, however, tempered by anxiety over the Siddaramaiah vs. Shivakumar contest, which has dragged on for three days without resolution.

Siddaramaiah, 75, is a former Chief Minister, and Shivakumar, 61, is the party’s Karnataka chief. Their claims to the post of chief minister are backed by a majority of MLAs.

With an eye on the long-term impact, especially on the national elections next year, Congress has a difficult decision to make.

In an exclusive interview with IndiNews last evening, Mr Shivakumar said he expected his leadership to acknowledge those responsible for Karnataka’s emphatic victory. 

I’m sitting here, doing my regular responsibilities. You should have the basic courtesy, a little gratitude.” Sonia Gandhi told me, “I’m confident you will deliver Karnataka.” The 61-year-old said that they should acknowledge those who contributed to the victory.

‘I will not blackmail you. Don’t perceive anything. I have my own presence of mind. I am not a child.’ Mr Shivakumar concluded.

In response to Mr Siddaramaiah’s claim that he has the support of the MLAs, he said, “I wish him all the best.”

In the run-up to the election, the Congress managed to present a united front, despite public clashes between Shivakumar and Siddaramaiah supporters. 

Shivakumar has strong organisational skills, and is considered the Congress’ troubleshooter during tough times, while Siddaramaiah has mass appeal and served a full term in 2013-18.

Siddaramaiah, however, has never been a party man and has never won any elections for the party, according to sources close to Mr Shivakumar.

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