Karnataka’s two chief ministerial aspirants Siddaramaiah and D K Shivakumar held separate meetings with Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge on Tuesday as the party held hectic consultations to decide on who would lead the government in the southern state.
Former party chief Rahul Gandhi also drove to Kharge’s residence this morning and held an over 90-minute meeting.
The two leaders discussed the issue of chief ministership and modalities of government formation in Karnataka after the party staged a stunning victory in the May 10 assembly polls in which Congress won 135 out of 224 seats.
AICC general secretary in-charge for Karnataka Randeep Surjewala and general secretary (organisation) K C Venugopal were also present during the meeting between Kharge and Gandhi.
Venugopal later separately met Gandhi at the latter’s residence.
Top party leaders were, however, tight-lipped on who was the probable choice for the chief minister’s post and by when the decision would be taken.
Sources that discussions could also be held with Sonia Gandhi before the final decision is taken.
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.
“The process is on. The observers have already gone there, met the MLAs. The MLAs have given their opinions. Now, the opinions have gone, all the record has gone to the central leadership. So, in a day or two you will know the answer,” Khera said.
Former chief minister Siddaramaiah, who has been camping in the national capital since Monday, met Kharge a little after 6pm and the two leaders discussed various issues related to Karnataka government formation. The meeting lasted over an hour.
Siddaramaiah later drove to Venugopal’s residence for a meeting.
Karnataka PCC president Shivakumar arrived in the national capital from Bengaluru and drove straight to his brother’s residence. He later met Kharge around 5pm and the meeting between the two lasted around half an hour.
Shivakumar, who is one of the top contenders for the state chief minister’s post, earlier said the party is his mother and there was no question of his resigning from the organisation.
“We have built this party. No question,” he said when asked about reports that he may resign from the party if not given the chief minister’s post.
“If any channel is reporting that I am resigning from the post, I will file a defamation case against them,” he said.
On whether he will also meet Rahul Gandhi, the Karnataka leader said: “I have to meet all leaders. First, I have to meet my Congress president.”
“My high command is there, my party is there, our MLAs are there — 135,” Shivakumar said, as he left the residence of his brother and Bengaluru Rural MP D K Suresh.
Suresh said that since the party has won under his (Shivakumar’s) leadership as Pradesh Congress chief, he had the right to stake his claim on the top post.
He had earlier met Kharge on Monday evening at the latter’s residence after Shivakumar cancelled his visit to Delhi on Monday citing health issues.
Both Shivakumar and former chief minister Siddaramaiah are staking a claim on the top post and their supporters have been indulging in hectic lobbying.
Meanwhile, senior Congress leader G Parameshwara also threw his hat in the ring saying he is ready to take up the responsibility if the party high command asks him to run the government.
The former state Congress president said, the high command is aware of his service to the party and he doesn’t feel the need to lobby for the post.
“If the high command decides and asks me to run the government, I’m ready to take up the responsibility,” the former deputy chief minister told reporters in Bengaluru.
“I have faith in the party high command. I have certain principles. I can also take about 50 legislators and do the shouting, but for me the discipline of the party is important…. if the high command gives me the responsibility, I will take it up. I have not said I won’t,” he said.
“They (high command) too are aware that I have worked for the party, served it for eight years (as KPCC president) and brought it to power (in 2013)…. I feel there is no need for me to ask for the post or lobby for it, and I’m quiet. That doesn’t mean I’m incapable, I’m capable and if given an opportunity will do the job,” he added.
The newly-elected MLAs in Karnataka had on Sunday passed a one-line resolution authorising party chief Kharge to appoint the legislature party leader, who will be the new chief minister.
Kharge earlier held discussions with party leaders from Karnataka and the three observers appointed by him to oversee the Congress Legislature Party meeting held in Bengaluru on Sunday.
The three central observers — Sushilkumar Shinde, Jitendra Singh and Deepak Babaria — had met all Congress MLAs individually and sought their views on who would be their choice of chief minister.
They also held a ‘secret ballot’ on their choice for chief minister. The observers discussed the findings of their report and handed it over to Kharge on Monday night.
In the just-concluded Assembly elections, 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 seats, respectively.