- Despite winning with a thumping majority in the recently concluded state assembly elections in Karnataka, the winning Congress party had to contend with the two warring leaders instrumental in the historic success at the hustings. The ex-CM Siddaramaiah and the State Party chief DK Shivakumar, two influential leaders, were vying for the coveted post of chief minister, each claiming to be the architects of the win. Both stood on their respective grounds, and it took days for the Congress’s high command to broker a truce. From the beginning, Siddaramaiah was ahead in the race not only for his experience as an able administrator but also for being the mass leader with acceptance across the state as compared to Shivakumar.
PC: File photo
- People closely following the political churnings of Karnataka would note that both these leaders were vying for the top post for quite some time as well. And both made no efforts to hide their ambitions on more than one occasion. Now that the leadership issue has been resolved with Siddaramaiah chosen as the CM and Shivakumar as the deputy CM, the moot point to ponder here is whether the later post carries the necessary heft and traction from the administrative point of view. Not at all. Remember, there is no provision for the Dy CM post in the Constitution, and the invention is only to keep the disgruntled/agitated leader(s) invested in the party and the government. As reported, Siddaramaiah, by all accounts, will be CM for 30 months.
- Shivakumar has been promised the office for the remainder of the term. It’s noteworthy to recall how Congress has tried a compromise between two state heavyweights only to see crises follow in no time. Experiments by the Congress governments in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Rajasthan have returned disastrous results. Interestingly, all three states hold assembly elections later this year. It’s crucial for Congress that any power-sharing formula eventually work out as envisaged. Nonetheless, it’s more crucial that Siddaramaiah come good in his early months as CM. In all analyses delinking state wins from Lok Sabha outcomes, the reality is that the Siddaramaiah government’s performance in Karnataka will be a key factor determining the party’s national profile.
- Needless to mention, this is Congress’s first government in years in a big state, and general elections are just a year away. Notably, Karnataka expects Congress to deliver five guarantees, get the corruption-riddled authorities on a correction course, and fix Bengaluru’s skewed economy. Bengaluru Urban District contributes over 35% of GDP. How Congress factions in Karnataka work together in government can impact party workers in fractious units in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, and MP. It’s a given that the post of Dy. CM entails an alternative power center that might impede the smooth functioning of the administration. Since the Dy. CM will be itching to assert himself, it will be interesting to see how deftly Siddaramaiah manages to steer the governance aspect.