Karnataka CM-designate Kumaraswamy meets Sonia, Rahul Gandhi, discusses govt formation

New Delhi: The Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) on May 21 decided to set up a joint coordination committee and formulate a common minimum program for the smooth functioning of their coalition government in Karnataka over the next five years, said a Congress leader who was part of the deliberations.
This was decided at a 20-minute meeting between JD(S) leader H.D. Kumaraswamy and United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi on May 21 evening.
According to the leader quoted above, the JD(S) has also agreed to leave the speaker’s post for the Congress. Seventy-one-year-old leader R.V. Deshpande, a Brahmin, is among the front runners for the post.
On the deputy Chief Minister’s post, Kumaraswamy told reporters after the meeting that Rahul Gandhi has authorized Congress general secretary in-charge of Karnataka K.C. Venugopal to discuss all the modalities related to government formation with the JD(S) leadership and the party’s local leaders.
A combined meeting of the Congress and JD(S) legislators has been called in Bengaluru on May 22.
After those meetings, the two sides will announce decisions regarding the swearing-in and other formalities.
“There is no bargain. We will cordially work things out. We must work together. I am here to take the advice of Congress leaders,” Kumaraswamy said when asked how the two sides are going to address the sticking points related to government formation.
“We are going to give a stable government. All these issues are not yet discussed. We have not discussed any future course of action,” he said.
The chief minister-designate also said that both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi agreed to attend his swearing-in ceremony on May 23.
“I had a warm and cordial meeting this evening, in Delhi, with Kumaraswamy. We discussed the political situation in Karnataka and other matters of mutual interest. I will be attending his swearing-in as CM of Karnataka, on May 23, in Bengaluru,” the Congress president later tweeted.
A Congress functionary, familiar with the developments, said the function will be short as only a few leaders from both sides are expected to take the oath of office. However, the full-fledged cabinet expansion will take place after Kumaraswamy wins the floor test he is expected to take within 24 hours after being sworn-in as the chief minister for the second time in 12 years.
Earlier, senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said that he along with general secretaries Ashok Gehlot and Venugopal, who all played an important role in stitching the alliance, had briefed the Congress chief about the developments in the state before his meeting with Kumaraswamy.
There is also an internal tussle going on in the Karnataka Congress with a section suggesting that the party should have two deputy chief ministers given that it has more number of legislators than the JD(S), said a Congress leader from the state.
The 66-year-old state Congress chief G. Parameshwara, a Dalit, is a strong contender for the post.
Former minister D.K. Shivakumar, who was instrumental in keeping the Congress flock together in the run-up to BJP leader B.S. Yeddyurappa’s trust vote, is also fancying his chances. But that possibility appears to be dim given that he is a Vokkaliga, a community to which Kumaraswamy belongs.
If he doesn’t get the deputy CM’s post, he is demanding that he should get the home minister’s portfolio along with the post of the state Congress chief, said a leader close to Shivakumar.
Two Congress MLAs, Shivanand Patil and Yashvanthraya Goud, are also threatening to resign if M.B. Patil, the former Congress minister who led the demand for separate status to Lingayats, is made deputy CM or given a cabinet berth.
In the wake of internal differences, and to avoid desertions, both the Congress and the JD(S) have decided not to lower their guards and confine their respective legislators to hotels till the floor test.
A Karnataka Congress office-bearer said his party will give representation to all sections of society in the next council of ministers. It has also been decided that the Congress will get a share of five seats in the upcoming legislative council elections as compared to three for the JD(S).
Sonia Gandhi, who was initially scheduled to meet Kumaraswamy at her residence, later decided to meet him at Rahul’s 12 Tughlak Lane residence in the Capital.
Prior to his meeting with the Gandhis, Kumaraswamy met Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati and discussed the role of regional parties in stopping the BJP from coming back to power in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
A JD(S) leader said the two leaders also discussed the shape of the Congress-JD(S) government and the possibility of sole BSP legislator N Mahesh getting a cabinet berth. The BSP and the JD(S) had a pre-poll alliance in the state.
Kumaraswamy’s swearing-in ceremony will be a show of strength by opposition parties. Apart from Mayawati, the JD(S) has also invited chief ministers Mamata Banerjee (West Bengal), V. Narayanasamy (Puducherry), N. Chandrababu Naidu (Andhra Pradesh), K Chandrasekhar Rao (Telangana), Pinarayi Vijayan (Kerala), and Arvind Kejriwal (Delhi). Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav and Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury are also likely to attend.

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