New Chief Minister of Karnataka: A Big Question
The recent Karnataka Legislative Assembly elections saw the Congress party emerge victorious, securing 135 seats out of 224, surpassing the required majority of 113. Analysts attribute the party’s victory to their focus on local leadership and issues, with veteran state leaders Siddaramaiah and DK Shivakumar leading the campaign instead of national figures like Rahul Gandhi.
The party opted not to project a Chief Ministerial candidate and addressed any signs of conflict with displays of unity from the two leaders during campaigning. Mallikarjun Kharge, the party president, has suggested a rotation system where each leader would hold the position for two and a half years out of the five-year term.
Who is Siddaramiah?
- Siddaramiah, the former Chief Minister, was born in 1948 in the remote village of Siddaramana Hundi in Varuna Hobli of Mysuru District. Despite his modest background, he acquired a B.Sc. degree from Mysore University, and later pursued a Bachelor of Law degree.
- He began his political career in 1983, with his election from the Chamundeshwari Assembly Constituency in Mysore District on a Bharatiya Lok Dal Party ticket. Siddaramiah was a follower of socialist leader Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia, and his aim was to unite the interests of backward castes, Muslims, and Dalits.
- Over time, he became a prominent Kuruba OBC leader in the Janata Party and the Janata Dal (Secular) under HD Dewe Gowda, where he served as the state’s Minister of Finance and Deputy CM. However, he faced disagreements with Gowda and ultimately joined the Congress in 2006.
- He took over the state leadership in Karnataka, leading the party to victory with 122 seats in the Legislative Assembly in 2013, and became the CM. Siddaramiah formed an alliance with the JD(S) in the next elections to keep the BJP at bay, but the BJP ultimately secured the support of Congress MLAs. He then became the Leader of Opposition in the State Assembly.
Despite being a prominent leader with a widespread following across constituencies in Karnataka, the longtime eight-term MLA DK Shivakumar has faced challenges in securing a safe seat due to rivalries between various communities such as Kurubas, Vokkaligas, Valmikis and Dalits. However, he ultimately chose to contest from Varuna, a seat he had previously relinquished to his younger son Dr. Yathindra Siddaramaiah in 2018. In the end, he won 60% of the total vote share in the 2023 election.
Who is DK Shivakumar?
- DK Shivakumar is a 60-year-old leader from the Vokkaliga community, which is primarily located in south Karnataka and constitutes about 15% of the state’s population.
- He has been associated with the Congress since his college days and was a member of the National Students Union of India, the party’s student wing.
- Over the years, Shivakumar has gradually risen through the ranks of the party, and has been elected MLA seven times, beginning with his successful run from the Sathanur constituency at the age of 27.
- Shivakumar made headlines in 2018 when he declared assets worth Rs 618 crore.
- During Siddaramaiah’s tenure as Chief Minister, Shivakumar served as the Minister of Energy in the government, and also held the irrigation portfolio in the 2018 JD(S)-Congress government.
- More recently, Shivakumar has expressed his ambitions for higher office, and is widely credited with playing a significant role in revitalizing the party for the latest elections despite the setback of losing several MLAs to the BJP in 2019.
- Shivakumar is facing multiple corruption charges, including an ED chargesheet for money laundering worth more than Rs. 8 crore and a CBI investigation into disproportionate assets.
- He and his associates were accused of income tax evasion exceeding Rs. 300 crore in 2017, with Shivakumar alone evading Rs. 34 crore.
- The CBI filed an FIR against him in October 2020, alleging that he amassed Rs. 74.93 crore of wealth disproportionate to his known sources of income during his tenure as energy minister in the Congress-led Karnataka government.
- In September 2019, he was arrested by the ED and later released on bail.
Recently, after early trends indicated a comfortable victory for his party, Shivakumar became emotional, recalling Sonia Gandhi’s visit to him while in jail and credited the party for support. Both Shivakumar and his party leader emphasized that the party’s high command would decide the leadership.