The stage is set for Karnataka chief minister-designate Siddaramaiah and deputy chief minister-designate D K Shivakumar’s oath taking ceremony at 12.30 pm on Saturday at the Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru.
Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar, who flew in from Bengaluru along with general secretary in-charge Randeep Surjewala, held discussions with party leadership in Delhi discussed government formations and are believed to have shortlisted some names of ministers and their portfolios.
Siddaramaiah, accompanied by AICC general secretary K C Venugopal and Surjewala, engaged in a closed-door meeting to discuss potential cabinet members. Later, D K Shivakumar joined them for further discussions. Following an hour-long deliberation, Siddaramaiah, Shivakumar, Surjewala, and Venugopal met Rahul Gandhi at 10, Janpath, where they held extensive talks for over an hour and a half. In addition, Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar formally extended invitations to Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra for the upcoming swearing-in ceremony.
After meeting Rahul Gandhi, Surjewala and Vengugopal headed to party chief Mallikarjun Kharge’s residence where they are said to have finalised the list of ministers, which sources said would be around 20. Venugopal had earlier said “a bunch” of ministers would also be taking oath.
The Congress Legislature Party (CLP) conducted a meeting on Thursday where Siddaramaiah was formally elected as its leader. Subsequently, he staked claim with the governor and received an invitation to form the government.
Regarding the attendance of Opposition leaders, Shivakumar stated, “We have requested our AICC president to take care of that. For us, the first priority is the Congress president and the Gandhi family, and we are here to invite them personally.”
Portfolios, Representation from All Communities
With no official announcement made, reports suggest that only a few ministers are expected to be sworn in. The new cabinet is likely to ensure representation from all regions of the state and various sections of society, including SCs, STs, OBCs, minorities, women, youth, as well as the prominent communities of Lingayats and Vokkaligas. D.K. Shivakumar, belonging to the Vokkaliga community, is among those involved in the formation of the cabinet, sources said.
Shivakumar has assured that the promises made by leaders like Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi to the people of Karnataka would be fulfilled in the first Cabinet meeting itself. Newly-elected MLA Priyanka Kharge, who is a probable minister, met Shivakumar at his brother’s residence. Before departing for Delhi, Shivakumar reiterated that fulfilling the promises made to the people remains their top priority. He further stresses on unity and stated, “We will work unitedly; there is no need for any speculation. We will keep you informed about the cabinet and other matters.”
Opposition Unity at Swearing-In
Siddaramaiah’s swearing-in ceremony as Chief Minister of Karnataka will showcase opposition unity, with the presence of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin, NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, National Conference President Farooq Abdullah and several other leaders from the non-BJP bloc. The gathering signifies a collective effort in the run-up to the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
Congress President M Mallikarjun Kharge has extended invitations to leaders from various political parties, including JMM, RJD, Shiv Sena, SP, PDP, CPI(M), CPI, MDMK, RSP, CPI(ML), VCK, RLD, Kerala Congress, and IUML, for the swearing-in ceremony. Senior Congress leader and former Union Minister M Veerappa Moily said: “It (the swearing-in ceremony) could also be launchpad for the opposition unity and demonstration of strength and solidarity”.
However, the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) in Kerala criticized the Congress for not inviting Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, stating that it reflects the grand old party’s immaturity and political fragility.
While the event aims to promote opposition unity, West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo Mamata Banerjee will not be in attendance, making her absence conspicuous.
Siddaramaiah Faces Cabinet Balancing Act
The initial challenge that Siddaramaiah is anticipated to confront is the formation of a Cabinet that ensures a balanced representation of various communities, regions, factions, as well as a mix of experienced and new legislators. With a sanctioned strength of 34, there is intense competition among numerous aspirants vying for ministerial positions.
On the first day of assuming power in the state, the Congress has pledged to fulfill a series of “guarantees” to the people. These include providing 200 units of free power to all households (Gruha Jyoti), extending monthly assistance of Rs 2,000 to the woman head of every family (Gruha Lakshmi), offering 10 kg of free rice to each member of a below poverty line (BPL) household (Anna Bhagya), granting Rs 3,000 per month for graduate youth and Rs 1,500 for diploma holders (between the ages of 18 and 25) for a duration of two years (YuvaNidhi), and ensuring free travel for women in public transport buses (Shakti). The Congress remains committed to implementing these promises from the moment they assume power in the state.
(With inputs from PTI)