Tue. May 28th, 2024

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“The high command won’t give the Chief Minister’s post to DK Shivakumar,” Siddaramaiah said.

Bengaluru:

Rifts within the Congress ahead of the state election in Karnataka is very much there, senior party leader Siddaramaiah made it clear today with his comments against longtime rival DK Shivakumar, who is now the state party chief. Conceding that both he and Mr Shivakumar are contenders for the top post, Mr Siddaramaiah claimed that the high command will not intervene to pick the next Chief Minister if Congress comes to power as the elected MLAs have to make a choice.

“No, that won’t happen at all.  Because we have to go by the democratic process. The high command won’t take a decision on its own. Go by the opinion of the newly elected MLAs,” Mr Siddaramaiah told NDTV in an exclusive interview when asked about the possibility. Mr Shivakumar, the trouble shooter of the Congress in the state, was tasked with heading the unit in July 2020, replacing Dinesh Gundu Rao, a Siddaramaiah loyalist.

Asked why not allow a younger person a shot at the top job, the former Chief Minister, who is now 75 years old, declared that this election would be the last one he would contest.

The decades-old rivalry between Mr Siddaramaiah and Mr Shivakumar had appeared headed for a pause of some sort as Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra made its way through the state.  

But in February, the two leaders had held separate bus tours in the northern and southern parts of the state. The fault line over accepting turncoats became apparent when Anand Singh, an MLA who quit the Congress in 2019, met Mr Shivakumar. Mr Siddaramaiah has been adamant about not allowing the turncoats back into the party.  

Senior Congress leaders have maintained that the need to put up a united front has been impressed on both leaders. But while they have reached a consensus on most issues, the divide on the candidate for the top job appears too deeply ingrained.  

It is also affecting candidate selection in the state — since the numbers on each side will influence the decision on who gets the Chief Minister’s post.

The one key issue on which both Mr Siddaramaiah and Mr Shivakumar agreed was the possibility of a hung assembly and a fresh alliance with HD Kumaraswamy’s Janata Dal Secular — both have ruled it out, predicting an outright Congress victory.

Elections in Karnataka will be held on May 10 and the votes will be counted on May 13.

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