Congress’ balancing act in Karnataka

The Congress has managed to come up with a formula to resolve the Karnataka imbroglio. Both former chief minister Siddaramaiah and state Congress president DK Shivakumar were in the running for the Karnataka chief minister’s post, but it was clear from the start that Siddaramaiah had the edge. Siddaramaiah is the tallest mass leader among all legislators in Karnataka. His appeal cuts across different regions of Karnataka and he has always had the support of a majority of Congress MLAs. He will be the new CM and Shivakumar his deputy.

Karnataka Congress president DK Shivakumar worked extremely hard, invested enormous effort and resources, and has a huge stake in the Congress victory, but he will have to bide his time. There are possibilities that, post the 2024 Lok Sabha election, the situation may change. Though former chief minister Siddaramaiah had a clear advantage in this tussle, the deal is lucrative for DK Shivakumar too. DK Shivakumar faces income tax and enforcement directorate cases related to assets disproportionate to his known sources of income. There is a strong possibility of the central government aggressively pursuing these cases. The optics of a chief minister ambushed by cases like these will be detrimental to the Congress ahead of the 2024 elections. Also, they won the election on the plank of the anti-corruption movement against the previous BJP regime.

In a way, this deal will help the Congress, provided both Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar manage to work together. However, if not dealt with properly, a Rajasthan-like situation, where a tussle between CM Ashok Gehlot and party leader Sachin Pilot is causing embarrassment, might be repeated in Karnataka too.