Karnataka: Newly elected Congress MLAs authorise Kharge to pick next CM

The CLP meeting was attended by AICC General Secretary (Organisation) K C Venugopal and three central observers

Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge being welcomed in Delhi after returning from Karnataka (Photo Courtesy: @INCIndia/Twitter)
Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge being welcomed in Delhi after returning from Karnataka (Photo Courtesy: @INCIndia/Twitter)


The Congress Legislature Party (CLP), which met at a private hotel in Bengaluru on Sunday evening, passed a unanimous resolution authorising All India Congress Committee (AICC) President M Mallikarjun Kharge to pick its leader, who will be the next chief minister of Karnataka.

The CLP meeting was attended by AICC General Secretary (Organisation) K C Venugopal and three central observers.

Before the meeting, Venugopal and the central observers held a meeting with Leader of Opposition in the outgoing Assembly Siddaramaiah and Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee president D K Shivakumar -- the two front-runners for the chief minister's post.

"The Congress Legislature Party unanimously resolves that the AICC President is hereby authorised to appoint the new Leader of the Congress Legislature Party," according to a one-line resolution passed at the CLP meeting. Siddaramaiah moved the resolution.

With the ball now in Kharge's court, lobbying for the top post is set to shift to Delhi with both the contenders expected to arrive in the national capital on Monday to meet Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and the AICC chief.

After the CLP meeting, Randeep Surjewala, AICC in-charge for Karnataka, said: "The MLAs will meet the central observers after dinner tonight and their decision will be conveyed to the party president for taking a decision to appoint a new CLP leader."

Venugopal said, "This process of taking the opinion of all MLAs will be completed tonight itself."

Sources said the observers will be handing over their report upon consulting all MLAs to Kharge by Monday.

On the process adopted by the Congress to elect the CLP leader, Congress general secretary in-charge communications Jairam Ramesh said this was "inner-party democracy at its best".

"This is the Congress way of arriving at a consensus giving confidence to all that they have been heard," he said.

"The new Congress Govt in Karnataka that will take over soon will be a STAR Sensitive, Transparent, Accountable & Responsive," Ramesh said on Twitter.

In the May 10 elections to the 224-member Assembly, the Congress scored an emphatic victory with 135 seats, while the ruling BJP and the former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda-led Janata Dal (Secular) secured 66 and 19, respectively.

After the results were declared on Saturday, Congress president Kharge deputed former Maharashtra chief minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, AICC general secretary Jitendra Singh and former AICC general secretary Deepak Babaria as observers for the election of the CLP leader in Karnataka.

The legislature party passed another resolution, moved by Shivakumar, promising to implement the five promises made to the people of Karnataka.

The resolution stated the Congress Legislature Party in Karnataka "wholeheartedly expresses its gratitude towards the 6.5 crore Kannadigas for reposing their faith in us and giving a decisive mandate to the Congress Party in the Karnataka Assembly Elections."

"This is indeed a victory of every Kannadiga, a victory of 'swabhimana' of Karnataka and a victory of progress and harmony to rebuild 'Brand Karnataka'," it said.

"...Karnataka has once again shone a new light to democracy and protecting the Constitution, which are under attack from the forces of hate and divisiveness, both from inside and outside the State," the resolution stated.

The Congress Legislature Party also expressed its appreciation and thanks to Kharge, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and state leaders for their efforts.

The resolution stated: "It is no coincidence that the Congress campaign in its true earnestness began way back in September-October 2022 during the Bharat Jodo Yatra, when Rahul Gandhi walked nearly 600 kilometres for a period of 21 days through the length and breadth of Karnataka, which immensely energised the cadre to take on the malgovernance, corruption and maladministration of the ruling BJP government."

"The Congress Legislature Party resolves to work determinedly and unitedly to give a responsible, accountable, transparent government to our brothers and sisters of Karnataka. Serving the 6.5 crore Kannadigas will be our sole motto and guiding light," the resolution read.

The CLP expressed its heartfelt appreciation to Kharge for the extensive and tireless campaign undertaken by him all through the elections as also for his "sagacious advice" on electoral strategy.

It also thanked former Congress president Sonia Gandhi for being a pillar of strength to the party and for her guidance and campaign in the elections.

The CLP said it shall ensure social justice and economic equality remain at the core of its government's policies and will fulfil the five "guarantees".

These are 200 units of free power to all households (Gruha Jyoti), Rs 2,000 monthly assistance to woman heads of every family (Gruha Lakshmi), 10 kg of rice free to every member of BPL households (Anna Bhagya), Rs 3,000 every month for unemployed graduate youths and Rs 1,500 for unemployed diploma holders (both in the age group of 18-25) for two years (Yuva Nidhi), and free travel for women in public transport buses (Shakti).

"We are duty bound to protect and preserve Kannada culture, language and our rich traditions. We will reclaim Karnataka as Sarva Janangada Shantiya Thota once again and will make Karnataka truly the number one state in India in terms of peace, progress and prosperity," the resolution read.

The CLP appreciated the insurmountable hard work, resilience and dedication of Shivakumar and Siddaramaiah as also the entire team for leading the campaign from the front.

Both the eight-time MLA Shivakumar and former chief minister Siddaramaiah have made no secret of their ambition to become Chief Minister and had been involved in a game of political one-upmanship in the past.

The Congress had entered the campaign phase with the challenge of keeping at bay the factionalism, especially between the camps of Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar, who had been openly rooting for their leaders, but the party put up a united front and ensured that no rift came out in open that could derail its prospects, under the mentorship of Kharge.

Banners have come up in front of Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar's residences here, erected by supporters, congratulating them for Congress' win and projecting them as the "next CM".

While the 60-year-old Shivakumar is considered to be a "troubleshooter" for the Congress, Siddaramaiah has a pan-Karnataka appeal.

If Siddaramaiah, who joined Congress after being expelled from JD(S), gets elected as the CLP leader, this would be his second stint as the Chief Minister from the party after having occupied the top post for five years between 2013-18. Shivakumar had served as Minister in Siddaramaiah's cabinet.

Shivakumar has been openly expressing his chief ministerial aspirations at various events, especially the ones connected with Vokkaligas. He had asked the dominant community, to which he belongs, not to "lose out an opportunity" with him as the KPCC president, while pointing out that S M Krishna was the last Vokkaliga leader to lead the party in the polls and then went on to become the CM in 1999.

In fact in this election, the Congress has significantly improved its electoral performance in the Vokkaliga-dominated Old Mysuru region (south Karnataka) and that credit largely goes to Shivakumar.

Also, there have been instances in the party that whoever has successfully led as KPCC President in election, have been the natural choice to be the CM, like in the case of Krishna and Veerendra Patil.

Siddaramaiah, who has seniority on his side, is known for able administrative skills, and has the experience of having run a successful tenure as the Chief Minister. He also enjoys the distinction of having presented 13 budgets for the state as Finance Minister.

Being a mass leader, he has considerable clout among the AHINDA (Kannada acronym for minorities, backward classes and Dalits) class. The mega 75th birthday bash of Siddaramaiah held last year in Davanagere was largely seen as an attempt by him and his loyalists to project him as the future CM.

Seventy-five-year-old Siddaramaiah, who has already announced that this was his last election, has been maintaining that the Chief Minister will be elected by the newly elected MLAs in consultation with the party high command.

There are also other contenders for the post like former deputy chief minister and ex-KPCC president G Parameshwara and veteran leader and seven-time MP K H Muniyappa -- both Dalits, and M B Patil -- a Lingayat.

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