The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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50:50 deal, and Dharam in saddle
- Karnataka gets first coalition amid chaos

Bangalore, May 28: Karnataka got its first coalition government today after two weeks of uncertainty, but chaos marked the new beginning.

Governor T.N. Chaturvedi, who administered the oath of office and secrecy to Congress leader Dharam Singh, the new chief minister, and his deputy Siddaramaiah, of the Janata Dal (Secular), had to appeal for order ahead of the swearing-in on the lawns of Raj Bhavan.

Security personnel had to step in to control some Congress and Dal (S) workers even as the two leaders were being sworn in.

The swearing-in, however, ended the uncertainty that persisted throughout the last fortnight. Although the Congress and the Dal (S) contested the Assembly polls as rivals, they were forced to emulate the Maharashtra model, in which the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party are partners in government, to thwart the BJP, which emerged as the single-largest outfit with 79 seats. The Congress has 65 seats and the Dal (S) 58.

According to the arrangement worked out, the chief minister and the deputy Speaker of the Assembly will be from the Congress, while the posts of deputy chief minister, Speaker and key ministries will be held by Dal (S) leaders. The sharing of ministries will be on a 50:50 basis, with the new ministers likely to be sworn in early next week. The size of the ministry is restricted to 34 — 15 per cent of the 224-member House.

Although Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and Dal (S) national president and former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda had worked out the nitty-gritty of the deal, the hitch was Siddaramaiah’s reluctance to join the Congress-lead coalition.

“He was averse to this idea because of the humiliation in accepting a Congress leader and working with some Congress leaders who do not have a clean record. He was persuaded to accept the deputy’s post to put an end to the uncertainty in the state,” a Dal (S) leader said.

The leader said Gowda would insist with the Congress not to appoint four ministers of the outgoing government, including D.K. Shivakumar, a die-hard supporter of Dharam Singh’s predecessor S.M. Krishna but a known detractor of the former Prime Minister. In the run-up to the elections, Gowda had levelled charges of corruption and land grabbing against Shivakumar.

According to the deal, the Dal (S) ministers will hold key portfolios such as finance, home, revenue, water resources and irrigation. One of Gowda’s sons, H.D. Revanna, will make it to the cabinet. The other, H.D. Kumarswamy, a legislator in the new House, has opted to work for the party as its secretary-general.

Soon after the swearing-in, another spell of chaos marked the news conference that Dharam Singh and Siddaramaiah addressed in Vidhana Soudha. Party workers, who wanted to garland the ministers, jostled with journalists and shouted slogans. When the reporters finally settled down, the two said they were forced to come together in the larger interest of the state and to curb the communal forces.

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