The picture-perfect bonhomie between the two Karnataka heavyweights till May 13 has now turned into a bitter game of one-upmanship as both vie for the post of chief minister.
It has been over two days and the Congress top brass is still discussing and deliberating a possible compromise formula that can keep both the contenders happy.
The party has admitted that the task at hand is not easy.
Party’s spokesperson Pawan Khera said in Hyderabad that a decision on the appointment of the chief minister of Karnataka will be known in a day or two.
“Appointing a chief minister is not an easy thing. It cannot be imposed from Delhi… Everybody’s view has to be taken into consideration. We have to engage with every stakeholder and then decide who the chief minister will be,” he said.
Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge is working overtime with all the stakeholders to find a way out of this crisis, which threatens to leave the party embarrassed despite its emphatic victory over the BJP.
Rahul Gandhi drove down to meet Kharge in the afternoon. This was followed by Kharge’s meeting with both Shivakumar and Siddaramaiah separately.
Shivakumar, who has harped on Sonia Gandhi’s trust in him and cried when the results were declared, has made several emotive appeals to strengthen his claim.
DK Shivakumar meets Mallikarjun Kharge at his residence in Delhi amid Karnataka next CM row
DKS said he will neither resign nor blackmail or backstab.
“If the party wants they can give me the responsibility. Ours is a united house, our number is 135. I don’t want to divide anyone here. Whether they like me or not, I am a responsible man. I will not backstab and I will not blackmail,” he said.
To add to the drama, one more senior leader has thrown his hat in the ring, and that too with a subtle threat of having support of 50 MLAs.
Former deputy chief minister of the state G Parmeshwara surprised all as he said he was ready to take up the responsibility if the party high command asked him to do so.
Third contender for CM post in Karnataka: Supporters of Congress leader G Parameshwara hold protest
“I trust the party leaders. I can form a group of 50 MLAs. But I don’t do that. I have some principles. Discipline is important to me. I have served as the deputy chief minister. The High Command knows everything about me and my work, so I don’t want to lobby. That doesn’t mean I’m incapable, I’m capable and if given an opportunity will do the job,” Parmeshwara said.
However, at least for now, Parmeshwara does not seem to be in contention.
One of the reasons why the Congress leadership is treading with utmost caution is because the decision will have implications not just on the future of the state government but also on the Lok Sabha elections next year.
The BJP already has a track record of reversing assembly election trends in the Lok Sabha elections. In the run up to 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP lost to the Congress in several states. However, the losses made little difference to BJP’s prospects in the Lok Sabha elections and it defeated the grand old party convincingly.
If the Congress messes up now, the BJP will capitalise in 2024 despite its huge loss now.
Reports suggest Kharge is likely to make the all important announcement tomorrow. For now all stakeholders are tight-lipped about who wears the Congress crown in Karnataka.
(With inputs from agencies)