Politics
Sources say that the Congress is mulling over choosing Mallikarjun Kharge or DK Shivakumar as its next Chief Ministerial candidate if the party gets the chance to come to power

Congress leaders, Dr G Parameshwara and Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee President Dinesh Gundu Rao, had on Sunday stated that the party is open to an alliance with the JD(S) if the BJP cannot retain power. Speculation about a possible alliance kicked off as former Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy was seen holding talks with former Water Resources Minister DK Shivakumar on Monday at the VIP lounge in Hubballi Airport.

Party insiders say that the Congress is unwilling to give up the Chief Minister’s post in case an alliance does materialise.  

Though the Congress seems keen on an alliance with the JD(S) again, sources close to Kumaraswamy, say that neither he nor his father HD Deve Gowda, are willing to shake hands if the Congress decides to put up Siddaramaiah as its Chief Ministerial candidate.

Congress sources say that the party is considering former Kalaburgi MP Mallikarjun Kharge or former water Resources Minister DK Shivakumar for the post of CM in case the alliance has a chance to clinch power once again.

The numbers

The Karnataka Legislative Assembly has a strength of 224 legislators. The BJP currently has 105 MLAs in its kitty. In addition, the independent MLA from Mulbagal, N Mahesh has given his support to the BJP. This means that the party needs to win seven more seats to gain a simple majority and continue as the ruling party.  

A few in the BJP prefer to sit in the opposition, rather than form an alliance with the JD(S). “We have learned our lesson twice while dealing with the JD(S) [The collapse of the Congress-JD(S) coalition in 2006 and 2019]. We’d rather sit in the opposition,” a source in the BJP said.

The tussle in the grand old party

A Congress leader, close to Siddaramaiah said that the former Chief Minister would not allow anyone else from the party to become the Chief Minister.

“Siddaramaiah has sabotaged Mallikarjun Kharge’s chances of becoming the Chief Minister in the past,” the Congress leader said.

In 2019, when the dissent was apparent in the coalition government, Kumaraswamy had told the media that the JD(S) was willing to concede the Chief Minister post to Congress if it chose Kharge as the CM. But “forces inside the Congress” (he was referring to Siddaramaiah) had stopped Kharge from becoming CM, Kumaraswamy had said.

Congress insiders say that the party is highly unlikely to offer the post to DK Shivakumar despite pressure from the JD(S) as he has been mired in several controversies. Shivakumar is currently being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate on allegations of money laundering. The Income Tax Department too is probing a case of disproportionate assets.