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Power tussle deepens in Karnataka Congress: Demands for change in CM grows as seers weigh in on Siddharamaiah vs Shivakumar debate

During a Kempegowda Jayanti function attended by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, seer Chandrashekar Swamiji advised Siddaramaiah to make room for DK Shivakumar in the future, spurring debates of a likely power tussle underway at the higher echelons of the Karnataka government.

A power struggle and caste-based politics in the state of Karnataka appears to be brewing yet again after a Vokkaliga seer urged CM Siddaramaiah to step down the post of Chief Minister so that DK Shivakumar could take over as the new CM.

During a Kempegowda Jayanti function attended by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, seer Chandrashekar Swamiji advised Siddaramaiah to make room for DK Shivakumar in the future. Kumara Chandrashekaranatha Swami of the Vishwa Vokkaligara Mahasamsthana Mutt, a prominent mutt of the Vokkaliga community, said that everyone from the Congress had enjoyed the power but DK Shivkumar was kept away from it.

“Everyone has become Chief Minister and enjoyed power. Our DK Shivakumar hasn’t become Chief Minister yet. Siddaramaiah has already been in power. In the future, Siddaramaiah should hand over power to Shivakumar. I again request Siddaramaiah, please make DK Shivakumar the Chief Minister,” he said.

The seer later told the media that Shivakumar was a deserving candidate for the post of Chief Minister since he played a key role in organizing the Congress ahead of the 2023 Assembly elections.

To note, DK Shivakumar is a prominent leader in the Vokkaliga minority, which accounts for 15% of Karnataka’s total population. In response to the seer’s words, Siddaramaiah who was also present at the event stated that the final decision depended on the Congress’ high command. “I will do whatever the party high command says,” the Chief Minister stated.

The incident is said to have happened when Siddharamaiah and Shivakumar were both present at an event commemorating the birth anniversary of Kempegowda, who is regarded to be the founder of Bengaluru. 

The power struggle in the Karnataka Congress is not a secret since it has defeated the BJP to come to power in the 2023 elections. Amid this, comments by seer Chandrashekar Swamiji have sparked heat among the party members. Following this, several other seers belonging to different sects have also begun commenting on the power struggle making sure their sect gets equal representation in the state power.

Srisaila Jagadguru Channa Siddharama Panditharadhya Swamy, a prominent Lingayat seer, asked the Congress last week to consider their community leaders for the position of chief minister.

Unlike the Vokkaliga seer, who pitched Shivakumar alone, the Lingayat saint suggested state ministers M.B. Patil, Eshwar Khandre, and S.S. Mallikarjun for the position. He reminded the Congress that Lingayat voters had supported it in the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections.

“If the CM is changed and additional deputy chief ministers are appointed, then Lingayats should get more representation in the cabinet. Opportunities should be given to leaders like M B Patil, Eshwar Khandre, and Shamanur Shivashankarappa,” he said. Another Lingayat seer, Rambhapuri Veerasomeshwara Swami on June 30th demanded prominent positions for leaders from the Lingayat community in the cabinet.

It is crucial to note that the appearance of the seers and their vehement calls for leadership comes at a time when a faction of the Congress wants three deputy chief ministers representing the major communities.

Housing and minority affairs minister Zameer Ahmed Khan, Public Works Minister Satish Jarkiholi, and Cooperation Minister K.N. Rajanna have all openly supported the proposal for three deputies, apparently to undermine DK Shivakumar’s prominence.

The loss of D.K. Suresh’s home constituency of Bengaluru Rural Lok Sabha constituency was a major setback for Shivakumar. Many had anticipated that Shivakumar would strengthen his bid for the top position, but the defeat of C.N. Manjunath, a cardiologist and the son-in-law of former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda, of the BJP is said to have changed the game for Shivakumar.

Shivakumar persisted in his quest to become chief minister even after leading the party to a resounding victory in the state elections of 2023. Days of talks and meetings with high-ranking officials were required to convince him to give in to Siddaramaiah as part of a deal for power-sharing.

The Congress officials are meanwhile blaming the BJP for allegedly instigating the seers to talk about the leadership in the state. Agriculture Minister N. Chaluvaraswamy charged the BJP with triggering the seers to cover up the party’s inability to retain 27 (of 28) seats in Karnataka in the last Lok Sabha. Also, CM’s economic advisor Basavaraj Rayareddy commented on the matter and opined that religious heads should not make such statements. “People respect them. Rather than imparting religious teachings, asking a person to make a CM based on caste is wrong,” he said.

Over the last week, the Siddaramaiah camp has attempted to upset Shivakumar by raising the issue of an additional deputy chief minister amid calls to replace the chief minister. Reports believe that Chandrashekaranatha Swami’s remark was intended to offset the Siddaramaiah camp’s efforts. Aside from the seer, some of Shivakumar’s supporters have also advocated for him to be appointed chief minister.

The BJP meanwhile has slammed the Congress party for disturbing the governance amid the party’s internal issues. “There is a power struggle going on in the Congress party. There is no governance,” said BJP MLA Ashwath Narayan. Sunil Kumar Karkala, a BJP MLA and state general secretary, claimed that the Congress leaders were battling for power at a time when the state was experiencing a rise in essential commodity prices.

“The pure greed of the Congress party and ministers have derailed development works in Karnataka. Now it’s time for Siddaramaiah vs DK Shivakumar. Let Congress MLAs once and for all tell the public who they want as CM. Karnataka needs a stable government,” Karkala said.

A section of the Congress believes that the statement by the ministers seeking three more Deputy Chief Ministers had been part of Siddaramaiah’s plan to keep Shivakumar in order, amid speculation that he may seek the CM post after two and a half years in office. 

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