Who will be installed in the coveted post of Chief Minister by the Congress, if it wins the May 5 Legislative Assembly elections, is now million dollar question, with multiple contenders now openly vying for the post.
Congress, as is the tradition, has not named a chief ministerial candidate. But long before, names of all candidates is even announced, the question of who would chair the cabinet in Vidhana Soudha is doing the rounds. It is not a secret any more that KPCC president G. Parameshwara and Leader of Opposition Siddaramaiah have started eying on the coveted post.
Mr. Siddaramaiah, who has been nursing a desire to become chief minister since he was with the Janata Dal (Secular), after paying obeisance to the Suttur Math seer in Mysore, told reporters that it would be easy for him to stake claim if the party elects 15 MLAs from the undivided Mysore district.
Not to be outdone, Dr. Parameshwara also made it known that he is an aspirant, but with a rider that it all depends on the high command. But, Mr. Kharge, who was asked to react on the issue, was categorical that no one should raise that issue now and instead concentrate on bringing the party to power. Asked whether he was a Chief Minister aspirant, he refused to answer.
Normally such expressions of interest are not taken into cognisance at all by the high command, which changes its style of selecting the Leader of the House in each election. For example, the high command chose to appoint S.M. Krishna to the post in 1999, but ignored his claim in 2004, despite getting more votes in the CLP meeting, sending a signal that numbers would not count. In Kerala, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh, it did not appoint the Pradesh Congress Committee president to the coveted post, automatically, even though the party came to power there.
The Assembly elections, the sources said, has a direct bearing on the Lok Sabha elections and the party wants to take a careful decision this time. If it wants to anoint a Dalit to the top slot, the sources said it might opt for Mr. Kharge and in that case, as he would fit into the post on all counts-loyalty, seniority, efficiency and he had won all the elections since 1971. To achieve this, it may strike some arrangement with Mr. Siddaramaiah.
Keeping an eye on the much-needed OBC votes for winning maximum number of Lok Sabha seats, the high command may opt for Mr. Siddaramaiah, as he has been after that post, thanks to his clout with the AHINDA voters. But, with the dissidence raising its ugly head, the party is reported to have forewarned the two leaders to keep their supporters, who were disappointed under leash than wasting time on who would be the Chief Minister.
Having many CM aspirants isn’t wrong: Siddu
He says he will go by high command decision; defends ticket for Lad;
Congress Legislature Party leader Siddaramaiah on Tuesday reiterated that he was a contender for the post of chief minister, but said he would abide by the decision of the legislature party as well as the Congress high command.
He said there was nothing wrong for a number of leaders to aspire for the chief minister’s post. There are too many senior leaders in the party and it is but natural for them to aspire for the post.
But nobody should presume that there are differences among leaders over the chief ministerial candidature. Opposition parties are under an illusion if they think there are differences among seniors, he claimed.
He was participating in an interaction with journalists organised by the Press Club of Bangalore and Bangalore Reporters’ Guild.
While attacking the BJP, Siddaramaiah said the State exchequer had lost over Rs one lakh crore due to illegal mining and denotification of land in recent years.
He reiterated that his party would clean up the system if it came to power, by ensuring transparency in administration.
Excerpts from the interaction:
You are alleging that the State lost crores of rupees through illegal mining and denotification. But in the last five years, the Congress was totally tight-lipped in the Assembly about these issues. It was only the JD(S ) which raised the issues.
I do not agree. The Congress did play a big role. It was the Congress which sought the resignation of Yeddyurappa over illegal mining. As a protest, we slept in the Assembly for a few days. Don’t forget our padayatra to Bellary. If Katta Subramanya Naidu and S N Krishnaiah Setty are facing the music for illegal denotification, the credit goes to the Congress.
You claim that the Congress had no problems in finalising candidates for the 224 seats. But the fact remains that there is too much discontent in many constituencies. The party is well exposed, isn’t it?
The Congress has several senior leaders, and we have more aspirants than any other party. The minimum number of applications received for a constituency was 10, while the maximum was 60. We have tried our best to make the selections transparent. But still, some are unhappy.
You said tickets will not be given to tainted leaders, but ‘B’ forms have been given to leaders indicted for illegal mining. For instance Anil Lad. He is named in the Lokayukta report on illegal mining.
There are three stages of investigation — first information report (FIR), charge sheet and conviction. If an FIR has been filed against a person, it does not mean he has been proved guilty. We have given tickets to those people against whom only an FIR has been filed.
There seem to be too many candidates proclaiming themselves as prospective chief ministers. It includes Mallikarjuna Kharge, G Parameshwara and of course, yourself.
Don’t you think that this might lead to collision of interests and prove detrimental to the party?
Being an aspirant for chief ministership is not wrong. Ours is a democratic party and we go to elections under a collective leadership. Even I am an aspirant, but the party high command will decide about it.
You are known for your short temper. You had resigned from the party once. What will you do if you are neglected during the formation of your party government, in case you and your party win?
I have the qualities of a normal human being. Getting angry is common. But at the same time, I cannot sit quiet when my self-respect is hurt.
V S Ugrappa and K C Kondaiah, who also played a key role in exposing illegal mining in Bellary and nefarious dealings of mining barons, have not been given party tickets to contest the polls. Why?
It is unfortunate people such as Ugrappa and Kondaiah have not been given tickets, but it was the discretion of the high command. The Delhi leaders got their own reports, on which assessments have been done.
Lingayats continue to be neglected by the party. Any comment.
It is false. Those who failed to get tickets will make allegations.
Former Union minister S M Krishna is said to be upset with the way he has been treated in the party. It is learnt that he will not campaign for the party during the elections?
Krishna is our senior leader. We all respect him. He will campaign.
You have always rued that you have not been able to do much for ‘Ahinda’.
Ahinda is a continuous process, it is about social reforms. There is no question of abandoning it. I have always said that this will be my last election. I will be in active politics, but will not contest elections. I will devote my time for Ahinda.
When you had given tickets to all sitting MLAs, why did you discriminate against Bhadravati MLA Sangamesh?
In a public function Sangamesh had insisted that instead of him, C M Ibrahim should contest. So, the party High Command took a decision in Ibrahim’s favour. I too am a party to this decision.