Bengaluru : With their MLAs safely holed up at Hotel Hilton on the road to Bengaluru airport, Congress and JD(S) quietly got down to the tricky business of power sharing and portfolio distribution. Though a final picture will emerge after H D Kumaraswamy + meets Rahul Gandhi and Sonia in Delhi on Monday, it’s expected that Congress will land 20 berths in the 33-member state cabinet.
But even with its 20 seats, Congress will have a proportionately lower representation – 26%, as it has 78 MLAs – than JD(S). Kumaraswamy’s party now has 37 MLAs after he vacated his Ramanagara seat. With 13 ministers, that’s 35% of JD(S)’s total strength. In addition to the CM’s post, JD(S) is expected to keep plum portfolios like finance, PWD and irrigation.
K C Venugopal, Congress general secretary and in charge of Karnataka, said: “Kumaraswamy alone will take oath as chief minister on Wednesday and he will take the floor test on Thursday. The election of speaker will also happen on the same day.” The Lingayats have demanded they be given a deputy CM’s post. There are 16 Lingayat MLAs in Congress, the highest from any community from among its 78 MLAs. The JD(S) has four.
According to sources, Congress, which has offered unconditional support to JD(S), will not make any demands (as reported by TOI on Sunday) in the interest of keeping this coalition stable.
Congress, according to sources, has already taken a decision to give the deputy CM post to Dalits and Parameshwara is their likely choice. Now that the Lingayats have put forth their demand, Congress is likely to oblige to get rid of the anti-Lingayat tag it had earned post-Siddaramaiah government’s efforts to give it a minority religion tag.
At a meeting with his MLAs, Kumaraswamy is said to have stressed how important it is for the party to be in power for its survival and requested them to accept whatever decision his father, HD Deve Gowda, and he take with regard to the composition of the cabinet.
Kumaraswamy rubbished reports on the powersharing formula of 30 months each as “bogus”. He insisted that no discussion has taken place so far on the allocation of ministerial berths. “I’m visiting New Delhi on Monday. I’ll meet AICC chief Rahul Gandhi and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi,” he said, adding that based on the outcome of discussions with them, a decision will be taken on cabinet formation.
Asked if he will complete the five-year term, Kumaraswamy told reporters: “Congress has promised full support to provide a stable government.”
Kumaraswamy will also invite Sonia and Rahul to attend his swearing-in ceremony on Wednesday.
Sources in Congress said former CM Siddaramaiah, KPCC chief G Parameshwara and D K Shivakumar will leave for Delhi on Monday and hold talks with the central leadership on the nitty-gritty of government formation. Kumaraswamy had a hectic Sunday. In addition to visiting his legislators and his father, he went to Srirangam in Tamil Nadu to offer prayers at Sri Ranganathaswamy temple.
With two assembly elections coming up within weeks in Bengaluru — Rajarajeshwarinagar and Jayanagar — there’s been speculation that JD(S) might ask its candidate to lie low in RR Nagar (candidates cannot be changed or withdrawn here) and not field one in Jayanagar. “It is bogus news. No such discussions have taken place. Wining Rajarajeshwarinagar and Jayanagar is a necessity,” said Kumaraswamy. With trust vote set for Thursday, MLAs of both parties continue to stay in the city’s star hotels. After the stress of the past four days and 1,100-km round trip to Hyderabad on two successive nights, many of the homesick MLAs, especially of JD(S), want to go home.
But the leadership, fearful that BJP might poach them, has turned down the demand of even a day’s break. Even the prodigal sons of Congress —Anand Singh and Pratapagouda Patil, who had resurfaced in the assembly in the nick of time on Saturday after going missing for four days — are camping with their Congress colleagues.