Congress leader Rahul Gandhi met Siddaramaiah and DK Shivakumar on Wednesday, May 17, as the party closed in on naming the next Karnataka Chief Minister after the election win over the weekend.
Siddaramaiah's supporters were seen bursting firecrackers and distributing sweets after his meeting with Rahul Gandhi, but the suspense over the Karnataka Chief Minister's post after the Congress's emphatic victory in the assembly elections endured for the fourth day. Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala said a decision could take 48 hours more and another 24 for announcing the cabinet.
According to sources, the Congress is closing in on naming Siddaramaiah, 75, for the role because he has the support of most MLAs and the task now is to bring Mr Shivakumar, 61, on board.
Meanwhile, former Congress president Sonia Gandhi spoke to Shivakumar and urged him to take up the post of Deputy Chief Minister. However, sources said, he politely declined the offer following which she asked him to continue as Congress Karnataka President. Sources said she told Shivakumar that party values his contributions.
In his meeting with Mr Gandhi, Mr Shivakumar indicated that he would not back down in the standoff with Siddaramaiah, sources said. He later met Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge.
Siddaramaiah has been in Delhi since Monday, where he met with senior Congress leaders amid speculation that he is the frontrunner in the race for the top post. Asked when there would be an announcement, he said, "Let's wait and see. I don't know".
Mr Shivakumar has earlier stressed that does not envisage a rebellion even if he is deprived of the job. "If the party wants, they can give me the responsibility... Ours is a united house. I don't want to divide anyone here. Whether they like me or not, I am a responsible man. I will not backstab, and I will not blackmail," he said.
The party's leadership has been briefed on the views of the newly elected MLAs by the team of observers sent to the state. Their decision is certain to affect the party's prospects in the next year's general election.
While Siddaramaiah is seen to be a leader with mass appeal and completed a full term in 2018, Mr Shivakumar is known for his strong organisational capabilities, and is considered resourceful and Congress' troubleshooter during tough times. Settling for either of the two contenders may lead to alienating the other, as well as their support base - within the party and out.
In DK Shivakumar's case, it could mean a large section of the politically crucial Vokkaligas. In the case of Mr Siddaramaiah, it could mean a chunk of MLAs backing him, and the AHINDA platform -- an old social combination of minorities, Other Backward Classes, and Dalits, which had voted en masse for the Congress.
The politically crucial Lingayat community, meanwhile, has staked claim to the Chief Minister's post. In a letter addressed to Mr Kharge, the Lingayat organisation All India Veerashaiva Mahasabha pointed out that 34 of the 46 Lingayat leaders fielded by the Congress have won.
Political commentators had seen the quagmire approaching months before the assembly election held last week, which saw the Congress win a clear majority, finishing with 135 seats in the 224-member assembly.
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