The differences between the former prime minister Siddaramaia and head of the state Congress DK Shivakumarthe two main contenders for the post of prime minister, threatens to mar the party’s smooth and successful run in power in the key southern state it has wrested from the BJP by an overwhelming margin.
The big old party has announced that its new government in the state will take office on May 18, but ironically there is still no clarity on who will wear the crown.
The two congressional heavyweights in the state are old rivals, but the grand old party under Mallikarjun Kharge has done a commendable job of keeping them united ahead of the assembly elections.
But the period of bonhomie now seems over. The results have arrived and the time has come to enjoy the fruits of success. Both leaders want the best seat and are not ready to budge.
This has presented a dilemma for Congress as it does not want to antagonize either leader. Especially when Siddaramaiah is a popular pro-Dalit leader and Shivakumar is a Vokkaliga strongman.
First it was their supporters who raised the tone for the two leaders, then a war of manifestos ensued and now it is the contenders themselves who are speaking through the media.
In fact, even when the results were being counted, Siddaramaiah’s son started the campaign and said “his father should become the Chief Minister, if Karnataka is to prosper”.
Siddaramaiah’s supporters cite his successful 5-year stint from 2013 to 2018 as saying he is the natural choice for the prime minister post.
DKS, on the other hand, cites his work as party chairman, especially during a time of turmoil where several congressional MLAs walked out on the party to join the BJP, penning this huge victory.
DKS reminded the party how Sonia Gandhi had asked him to deliver Karnataka for the party. And deliver has in the most convincing way. Now he wants Congress to recognize and reward his efforts as well.
The head of the state congress has pledged his unwavering loyalty to the high command and the Gandhis, but he is defiant. On Monday he was summoned to Delhi but avoided the visit citing health reasons.
Siddaramaiah, meanwhile, is in Delhi and has met with the head of the party. He has publicly stated that the majority of MLAs support him, despite the fact that the lawmakers’ opinion was taken by secret ballot.
DKS responded to this claim by saying he did not have the support of any MLA, but all 135 Congressional MLAs won under his leadership as state party boss.
All three congressional observers presented their reports to Kharge. The head of Congress has about two days to make a decision or arrive at a compromise formula that satisfies both sides.