Hectic parleys among top Cong leadership helped break logjam over Karnataka CM pick

To maintain his number 2 position in the Karnataka government, Shivakumar was made the only deputy chief minister.

New Delhi: Several top Congress leaders from party chief Mallikarjun Kharge to former party chiefs Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi were involved in hectic parleys with Siddaramaiah and D K Shivakumar which finally helped to break the logjam over the top post in Karnataka.

Ever since the Karnataka Assembly results were declared on May 13, both the leaders started garnering support of MLAs close to them while mustering support for themselves.

The supporters of both, meanwhile, started building up the momentum in support of their respective leader and a poster war erupted.

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As the race for the top post heated up, Kharge appointed three observers — Sushilkumar Shinde, Jitendra Singh and Deepak Babaria — and the first meeting of the Congress Legislature Party was convened on May 14. Supporters of both the leaders continued to raise the pitch by raising slogans in support of their leaders outside the CLP meeting venue.

All Congress MLAs authorised the party chief to appoint a leader of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP), who would also be the new chief minister.

Keeping the consultation process alive, the newly-elected MLAs had authorised Kharge to appoint the new CLP leader, after which the scene shifted from Bengaluru to Delhi. The observers also held one-on-one consultations with all MLAs and sought a secret ballot from all of them, the results of which were tabulated and shared with party chief the next day.

In the national capital, the three observers along with party general secretary (organisation) K C Venugopal and AICC general secretary in-charge Randeep Surjewala arrived and held a meeting with Kharge.

With Siddaramaiah emerging as the frontrunner in the race and after the report of observers, the party leadership asked him and Shivakumar to arrive in Delhi for further consultations. While Siddaramaih arrived on Monday evening, Shivakumar cancelled the meeting citing health issues.

This complicated the situation for the party as it hardened its stand against Shivakumar, who arrived the next day.

Tuesday saw the entry of Rahul Gandhi in the consultation process, who drove down to Kharge’s residence and held a meeting on the Karnataka government formation for over an hour-and-a-half.

A series of fresh consultations started once again with Kharge meeting both of them separately, as also with the two general secretaries on Tuesday.

The final round of talks started on Wednesday when both the leaders met Rahul Gandhi at his residence. In the meantime, Shivakumar and Siddaramaiah also spoke to Sonia Gandhi, who was away in Shimla on a vacation. Sonia also asked Shivakumar to speak to Kharge and Rahul to sort out the matter, sources said.

The hectic parleys continued from Monday and went on till the wee hours of Thursday to break the deadlock in deciding on the Congress’ chief ministerial pick in Karnataka as both Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar presenting their cases before the top brass.

The leadership issue in Karnataka lingered as Shivakumar had dug his heels in and asserted that he be made the chief minister as the party staged a stunning victory in the southern state under his presidency.

Sources said after Rahul Gandhi told both the leaders to sit together and work out a solution with Kharge, it was the party chief who told Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar to hold talks with Venugopal and Surjewala, and sort out the differences and agree to Siddaramaiah as chief minister, whose leadership abilities and mass support helped him clinch the top post.

The decision, sources said, was chalked out in the wee hours of Thursday when all parties agreed to accomodate confidantes of both the leaders and asked Shivakumar to continue on the post of state Congress chief till the next year’s Parliamentary elections.

To maintain his number 2 position in the Karnataka government, Shivakumar was made the only deputy chief minister.

The chief minister and his deputy along with over 20 ministers in the cabinet would take oath on May 20 in Bengaluru, where leaders of several political parties would also be invited.

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