Southern Slice | In Congress Relay Race, There’s A New Hurdle – Selecting A Well-balanced Cabinet


Two major hurdles out of the way – winning the assembly elections with a massive mandate and finalising Siddaramaiah as the chief minister over DK Shivakumar – the Congress will now have to go back to the drawing board. The task of choosing a winning, well-balanced cabinet, which will help the party deliver on the promises it made to the people of Karnataka, remains cut out.

The race for the post of chief minister’s seat may have been brought to a fighting finish, but the new Congress will have to embark on another wrestling match to decide who will be made a minister in the first round of Siddaramaiah’s cabinet. This is certainly going to keep the party on its toes, as not only will it have to balance caste and community combination but it will also have to tactfully manage several aspirants for the limited 33 ministries without causing a rebellion.

Senior members of the Karnataka Congress, who were part of Siddaramaiah’s cabinet in 2013, are once again hopeful of finding a place in his first cabinet. They expect to be rewarded for their efforts to bring together their communities, which helped the party win an absolute majority of 135 seats in the 224-seat Karnataka legislative assembly.

The fact that the Congress announced that Siddaramaiah will be CM and DK Shivakumar his only deputy, has already stirred a hornet’s nest; many aspiring MLAs have already thrown their hats in the ring seeking adequate representation for their community.

The MLAs representing different communities – Lingayats, Vokkaligas, OBCs, SCs, and STs – are hopeful of being rewarded with a deputy’s post to try and bring a caste and community balance. This was tried by the BJP in 2019 when the Yediyurappa-led BJP had three deputy CMs – Dr CN Aswatha Narayan (Vokkaliga), Laxman Savadi (Lingayat) and Govind Karjol (Dalit).

With the decision to have just one deputy CM, the MLAs are now clamouring for plum ministerial berths. Karnataka Congress general secretary incharge Randeep Surjewala said the new cabinet will be in place in the next 48 to 72 hours, and also assured that Karnataka will have a five-year-long stable government of the Congress.

In order to fulfil this promise, however, the party will have to ensure a smooth handling of the cabinet profile distribution, giving equal importance to legislators who backed Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar. Before it was officially announced that Siddaramaiah will be CM, the Waqf Board, All India Veerashaiva Mahasabha, Lingayat and Vokkaliga mutt heads – all started raising their demands to get a piece of the cabinet pie.

There has been a flurry among the newly elected legislators as they try to find themselves a position in the new cabinet. It is learned that of the 135 new MLAs, at least 80 leaders are actively vying for ministerial positions, creating an atmosphere of tension, anticipation, and added pressure on the Congress party.

The MLAs are resorting to various approaches, ranging from personal visits to CM Siddaramaiah’s residence to seeking support from DK Shivakumar and lobbying directly with the party high command in Delhi to secure ministerial posts through higher channels.

It is learned that a group of influential MLAs from the Lingayat, Vokkaliga, OBC, and Muslim communities made a strong demand while visiting CM-designate Siddaramaiah at his residence on Thursday. Some of the names that News8 has learned are MLC Prakash Rathore, who emphasised that the Banjara community should be given ministerial representation, reflecting their trust in Siddaramaiah’s commitment to justice. Other prominent aspirants include M Krishnappa, former minister Umashree, and former minister TB Jayachandra. Jayachandra, who had earlier served as a minister in Siddaramaiah’s government in 2013, is also said to have expressed his preference for a ministerial position rather than a Speaker role.

The All India Veerashaiva Mahasabha had written to the Congress high command demanding the coveted post of CM for the community, considering 34 elected MLAs from the Congress were Lingayats. Now that the issue of ‘Kaun banega mukhyamantri’ is sorted, they are continuing to press for a Lingayat to be named as a deputy CM.

Other than Siddaramaiah and DK Shivakumar there were other contenders for the CM post, including senior Congress leader and Lingayat strongman MB Patil, former deputy CM Dr G Parameshwara, and Congress working president and another Lingayat Eshwaran Khandre. With the hopes of being CM diminished, they were now eager to get the deputy CM post.

Patil had accompanied Siddaramaiah to Delhi while parleys were on with the Congress leadership and the deadlock also came as an opportunity for the Lingayat leader to push his case. The influential Lingayat mutts had written to Kharge that the community should be rewarded for backing the party by making a leader like Patil CM or deputy CM. But Patil was left upset as both seemed out of reach.

With the final decision made, Patil — to reassert himself as a Lingayat leader — made a statement that the Congress will give due respect to all communities. “Whoever voted, be it Dalits, Lingayats, Vokkaliga, Muslims, SC, and STs, all of them have to be given their due share. I am confident the party will do it,” Patil said just ahead of the swearing-in ceremony on May 20.

The leader is now back in Delhi for parleys, seeking representation of the influential Lingayats who stood by the Congress this time.

Dr G Parameshwara also spoke of how “some sacrifices’ have to be made, but not making a Dalit a CM will hurt the Congress.

“This is the time to work together and forget our aspirations. This is the time to fulfill the promises made to the people and as I said the party is supreme,” Parameshwara later told the media.

However, Patil and Parameshwara would have to follow the diktat of the party’s high command and fall in line.

The Muslim community has also put forward its demands for the deputy chief minister position and named five important portfolios that should be reserved for them, as they argue that the community en masse voted in favour of the Congress. They claim that their loyalty and support played a significant role in the party’s success, and 11 out of 15 Muslim candidates fielded emerged victorious.

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