Congress: Karnataka CM: Will Congress use the 2018 model to solve the dilemma? | Karnataka Election News

NEW DELHI: After sweeping the Karnataka assembly elections last week, the Congress faces a difficult dilemma regarding the post of prime minister (CM) in the southern state. The problem arose because the Congressional leadership did not nominate any candidates to lead the ministry. The party had faced a similar situation after favorable results in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan in December 2018.
Frenetic talks are taking place in the capital of Karnataka Bengaluru and Delhi on choosing the CM of Congress, leader of the opposition in the previous assembly Siddaramaia o Chairman of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC). DK Shivakumar.
Both Siddaramaiah, 75, and Shivakumar, who turned 61 on Monday, are strong contenders for the coveted post. Congressional leadership appointed a team of three observers to Karnataka on Sunday to get feedback from MLAs.
Former CM Sushil Kumar Shinde of Maharashtra, All India Congress Committee (AICC) Secretary General Bhanwar Jitendra Singh and former Secretary General Deepak Bawaria interacted with newly elected MLAs at the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting on Sunday in Bengaluru.
Observers are believed to have solicited MLA preference for the CM post through voting. Subsequently, Siddaramaiah was summoned to Delhi on Monday while Shivakumar stayed in state for his birthday.
Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge, a native of Karnataka, was allowed to make a final decision on the matter. The party high command is likely to make an early decision as the new CM is likely to be sworn in on May 18th.
While Siddaramaiah has experience on his side, Shivakumar has age in his favour. Siddaramaiah is a former CM. During the run-up to the assembly elections, he said this was his last election. Faced with a similar dilemma in MP and Rajasthan in 2018, the Congress high command preferred experience over young age.
Madhya Pradesh
The Congress had fought the 2018 Madhya Pradesh assembly poll with Kamal Nath as the state president. Jyotiraditya Scindia was the chairman of the state election campaign committee. The party leadership has not nominated anyone as a CM candidate.
In a hung assembly, Congress emerged as the largest single party winning 114 of the 230 total. It fell short of an outright majority by just two seats.
The BJP finished second winning 109 seats. At 41.02%, the BJP’s share of the vote was slightly higher than that of Congress which garnered 40.89% of the vote.
Both Kamal Nath, 71 at the time, and Scindia, who was 47, claimed the CM post. They met then Congress President Rahul Gandhi, who preferred experience over age. As a result, Kamal Nath was sworn in as CM and a Congress government was formed with the support of other MLAs, including two from the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
But the experiment backfired as Scindia, the then congressional secretary general, continued to sulk at being passed over for the top post in the state despite working hard for the party’s victory over the ruling BJP.
Scindia felt further humiliated as both Kamal Nath and ex CM Digvijaya Singh worked in tandem as they sidelined him.
In March 2020, Scindia resigned from Congress and joined the BJP along with 22 MLAs who were loyal to him. This caused the fall of the 15 month old government headed by Kamal Nath.
Shivraj Singh Chouhan again became the CM MP and formed the government. Most Scindia loyalists fought the by-election on the BJP ticket and won. The BJP won an absolute majority after what is called “Operation Lotus”.
Subsequently, Scindia was awarded the Civil Aviation Portfolio in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet.
Rajasthan
Almost a similar story repeated itself in Rajasthan. The Congress contested the 2018 Rajasthan assembly elections with Sachin Pilot, who was 41 at the time, as the state president. The current CM Ashok Gehlot, who was then 67 years old, was the general secretary of the AICC in 2018.
As in MP, elections in Rajasthan also threw a hung assembly. In the 200-member assembly, Congress won 100 seats, just one short of an overall majority.
This followed a fight between Pilot and Gehlot to become the CM of Rajasthan.
The two were summoned to Delhi. After a meeting with Rahul, the experience paid off again. Gehlot was tapped to become CM while Pilot was named deputy CM along with the post of state president.
Gehlot formed the government with the support of six BSP MLAs and others. In September 2019, all six BSP MLAs joined Congress, facilitating Gehlot’s work.
However, he faced a crisis when Pilot staged an uprising in July 2020. With 19 MLAs owing allegiance to him, Pilot precipitated a political crisis in Rajasthan. While loyalists to him were kept in a hotel in Haryana, lawmakers who supported Gehlot were holed up in Jaisalmer.
After about a month of crisis, Pilot met with Congress Secretary General Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and agreed to buy a truce with Gehlot. He was fired as both deputy CM and party state chairman. It is believed, however, that he was secured the CM post in the last year of his government mandate.
A war of words has often broken out between Pilot and Gehlot. In the latest crisis in the state, Pilot pulled out a five-day ‘Jan Sangharsh Yatra’, which ended on Monday, against his own government. He has called for action in alleged corruption cases during the tenure of Gehlot’s predecessor, Vasundhara Raje.
Pilot issued a 15-day ultimatum to Gehlot for taking action against “corruption”.
The pilot’s rebellion and occasional balking attitudes against Gehlot embarrassed the party on multiple occasions. They also pose a threat to the party during the assembly elections which are expected to be held later this year along with MPs, Chhattisgarh and Telangana.
In Karnataka, Congress is once again at the same crossroads it was in 2018 in MP and Rajasthan. Will Siddaramaiah accept Shivakumar as CM? Will Shivakumar agree to work as Siddaramaiah’s deputy? These are a couple of issues Congress is addressing.

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