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Caste Balance and 2019 Ambitions Give Congress Deputy CM Berth Pangs in Karnataka

Sources said that while the Congress wants to appoint two in order to strike a balance between the two allies, the JD(S) is not in favour of it.

News18.com

Updated:May 21, 2018, 10:59 PM IST
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Caste Balance and 2019 Ambitions Give Congress Deputy CM Berth Pangs in Karnataka
Karnataka chief minister-designate HD Kumaraswamy meets Congress president Rahul Gandhi and former Congress president Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi on Monday.
New Delhi: Karnataka chief minister designate HD Kumaraswamy and Congress chief Rahul Gandhi may have put up a show of unity on Monday but hard bargaining is underway over power sharing.

Kumaraswamy met Rahul and Sonia at the former’s house in Delhi on Monday to hold discussions on the contours of his government and Congress’ Karnataka in charge KC Venugopal will continue the negotiations in Bengaluru on Tuesday.

The biggest point of contention is the deputy chief minister post. Sources said that while the Congress wants to appoint two in order to strike a balance between the two allies, the JD(S) is not in favour of it.

Having two deputy CM would also allow the Congress to strike a caste balance in the state with an eye on the Lok Sabha elections next year. But with different communities putting pressure to get their own person in the chair, the calculation would not be easy.

Currently, Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee chief G Parameshwara is the favourite to be the deputy CM. A Dalit, his appointment would help the Congress win back Dalit votes ahead of 2019.

But senior Lingayat leaders such as HK Patil and MB Patil from north Karnataka are also eyeing the post. The Lingayat faction within the Congress has demanded that deputy chief ministership should be given to a Lingayat person from northern Karnataka since Kumaraswamy is a Vokkaliga who won from the southern part of the state.

Congress has 16 Lingayat MLAs and JD(S) has four. Obliging to the demand of the Lingayats would allow the Congress to get rid of the anti-Lingayat tag it earned post-Siddaramaiah government’s efforts to give it a minority religion status.

At the same time, the Muslim community has also demanded that its representative should bag the post. A Muslim MLC told News18 that if one looks at the 78 seats from where Congress won, close to 50 were won majorly because of Muslims who voted en masse for the Congress.

“If the Congress fails to recognise and reward our support, the Muslims should teach the Congress a lesson as we have made enough sacrifices for the party. We demand a Muslim deputy CM in Karnataka,” the MLC said.

The name of DK Shivkumar, Congress’ all-weather man who helped keep the flock of MLAs together ahead of Saturday’s crucial trust vote, has also been proposed. It would be a reward for his work but being a Vokkaliga like Kumaraswamy works against him.

So for the Congress, the choice could well be between consolidating its position in Karnataka by naming a Lingayat or focus on 2019 by going with a Dalit and/or Muslim No.2 in the state. All this would depend on its talks with the JD(S) as well.

When Kumaraswamy was asked about the appointment of a deputy CM after the meeting, he remained cryptic and said: “Rahul Ji has cleared the modalities”.

“He has given permission to Congress Karnataka general secretary KC Venugopal to discuss all those matters and finalise everything. Local leaders and he will sit together tomorrow (Tuesday) to finalise things,” he added.

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| Edited by: Aakarshuk Sarna
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