The Congress on Wednesday expressed outrage at the continuous speculation about the Karnataka chief minister, announcing that the party would take 24 to 48 hours more as the nitty-gritty of government formation was still being discussed.
Celebrations started in Bangalore in the morning as a section of the electronic media flashed that P.C. Siddaramaiah’s name had been cleared for the chief minister’s post, along with definitive reports about offers and tough bargaining by D.K. Shivakumar. Shivakumar rebutted the reports in the evening, saying: “Whatever is coming in the media is bogus.”
Congress general secretary in-charge Randeep Surjewala came out in the afternoon to plead before the media not to run speculative reports and the BJP’s plants but to wait for official announcements. He said discussions were going on and the final decision may take 24 to 48 hours more.
While ill-informed and half-baked reports might have created complexities in the negotiations, the reports in electronic media showed Shivakumar in poor light, portraying him as an angry blackmailer who was hellbent on extracting his pound of flesh.
He might have a genuine grudge because issues were still being discussed inside while an impression had gained ground outside that Siddaramaiah had become the chief minister.
While both Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar met Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday, the state unit president was closeted with party president Mallikarjun Kharge for almost two hours.
A section of the media gave a running commentary of tense bargaining inside but Congress sources said they talked and had lunch in a cordial ambience. They insisted both were seasoned politicians and sorting out differences and creating agreements didn’t mean conflict or blackmail.
Congress sources said these processes in the BJP, dragging on in the recent past, did not evoke such ridicule and criticism while the Congress was accused of betraying the mandate and doing “natak (drama)” only in four days.
A key functionary said: “Such an exercise does take four-five days. Apart from deciding the chief minister between two strong and able contenders, even ministerial berths are decided. Different lobbies and pressure groups are at work to make the government more representative.”
The BJP had taken seven to 15 days to select its chief ministers in the past. Jairam Ramesh tweeted: “Just to refresh memories of PM’s drum-beaters especially. 2017 UP Vidhan Sabha election results out on March 11th. Yogi appointed CM 8 days later on March 19th. 2021 Assam Vidhan Sabha election results out on May 3rd. Himanta Biswa Sarma became CM 7 days later on May 10th. There are many more such examples.”
In Uttarakhand in 2022, results were announced on March 10 and the decision on BJP’s chief minister was taken 11 days later on March 21. Chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa in 2019 did not have ministers for 25 days. Eknath Shinde and Devendra Fadnavis ran the government without ministers for over a month.
But BJP IT cell chief Amit Malviya tweeted: “Want to watch circus? Watch the Congress select their CM in Karnataka. The BJP also holds discussions and deliberations to elect its CMs and has often ensured smooth transition of power, even between CMs. Despite elaborate consultations, you will never find BJP aspirants falling over each other, rallying supporters and issuing veiled threats to the party through the media. On the contrary, last evening, Lutyens journalists, who DK Shivkumar hosted at the Claridges, almost appointed Siddaramaiah as the Karnataka CM. Sorry state of affairs in the Congress, where president Kharge sees himself more as a postman, let alone being a decision-maker or even part of the decision-making team…. He keeps referring to some High Command….”