Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, in a series of swift moves, not entirely endorsed by the Congress High Command, has sought to undermine the position of his deputy and PCC Chief, D.K. Shiva Kumar, a development that could subsequently become a cause of worry.
The Chief Minister has asserted his supremacy in not only finalising the names of his Council of Ministers, but has allotted portfolios that are not consistent with the agreement reached between him and Shiva Kumar, under the watchful eyes of the Central leadership.
While there is a concerted attempt by the CM’s camp to dispute any accord that may have been arrived at when the final decision of making him as the head of the government was taken, the PCC Chief, who has contributed immensely to the outcome of the elections, has been virtually sidelined.
Knowledgeable sources said that it was mutually agreed that half the names in the Cabinet would be accommodated on the recommendations of the deputy CM and the other half as per the choice of the CM. Shiva Kumar is understood to have agreed for three major portfolios and two smaller ones. These were Irrigation, Urban Affairs including Bangalore City Development and Power besides Medial Education and Information Technology and Bio Technology. However, in the list that was released, he has just got Irrigation and Bangalore Development Authority.
Siddaramaiah’s supporters, however, maintain that the CM had got the names and portfolios cleared by both Malikarjun Kharge and Rahul Gandhi, something which is being contested by the other camp. Although the CM and his deputy have not spoken on the subject, it is evident that in the coming days, there could be differences between the two that may crop up, impacting the Congress chances in the Parliamentary elections next year.
Several political analysts are also amazed why the Congress has chosen to ignore both former CM, Jagadish Shettar and deputy CM, Laxman Savadi, who had come to the party after quitting the BJP. The message is very clear for BJP members wanting to join the Congress in Karnataka and other States that they shall get nothing for their switchover.
Politically speaking, both Shettar and Savadi, have great potential and could have strengthened the Congress efforts next year. There are unconfirmed reports that both of them are sulking and feeling let down by the party High Command. While one can understand that Siddaramaiah may be wanting to promote only MB Patil as the top most Lingayat leader in the Congress, Kharge should have comprehended, that Shettar after B.S.Yeddyurappa is the tallest Lingayat leader in the state. Getting half a dozen Lingayats in the ministry cannot be a compensation for ignoring such stalwarts.So far as the Vokkaligas, the other major community is concerned, Shiva Kumar has now become their most favoured representative. The deputy CM called on his adversary but senior most Vokkaliga leader, H.D. Deva Gowda, after the polls to seek his blessings.
The ministry making has also not taken into account adequate representation to the Brahmins; only Dinesh Gundu Rao has been included while R.V. Deshpande stands marginalised. Similarly, the Muslims are also feeling let down and Siddaramaiah has evidently included members of that community on the recommendation of his trusted lieutenant Zameer Ahmed Khan, who like him, joined the Congress from Janata Dal (Secular).
Many in Karnataka seem to be also unhappy over the turn of events and feel that it is time for Kharge to be more assertive than he is. Even otherwise within the party, there is a general feeling that K.C. Venugopal, the organising secretary, has acquired more powers than he was capable of handling, and the Congress president must appoint a Political Secretary to begin with. After Ahmed Patel’s demise, the Congress leadership has not appointed anyone in that position and multiple names of likely candidates are being suggested. They include Tariq Anwar, Mukul Wasnik, Ramesh Chennithala and Manish Tewari, all former Youth Congress presidents who are well versed with party matters. There is also speculation regarding the constitution of the new Working Committee and appointment of office bearers.
In a development that should be considered significant, the Assam Chief Minister, Himanta Biswa Sarma, is reported to have called Shiva Kumar around his 61st birthday earlier this month, cautioning him that he would miss the CMship if he gave in to the High Command’s wishes. Citing the example of his state, he is believed to have stated that while he worked day and night for the Congress success, but when the CMship was to be decided, it was always in favour of Tarun Gogoi.
The Congress High Command should assuage Shiva Kumar, a party loyalist before the feud with the CM has an impact on the overall politics of the state. Siddaramaiah is the most popular leader but as per his own admission, it was his last election. The Congress has to prepare for the future. The Karnataka victory has raised the expectations of the people from the Party. The Congress cannot afford to allow this advantage to fritter away.