Show of Opp unity on display
Janata Dal(S) leader HD Kumaraswamy was sworn in as the 25th Chief Minister of Karnataka on Wednesday at a function attended by a galaxy of Opposition leaders and thousands of Congress and JD(S) supporters. Senior Congress Dalit leader G Parameshwara took oath as the Deputy Chief Minister.
The unprecedented gathering of Oppositions leaders and regional satraps at the function seemed to be a prelude to the emergence of a broad-based unity of the Opposition parties to take on the Modi-Shah combine in the 2019 general elections.
In addition to UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi, also present on the occasion were NCP leader Sharad Pawar, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and TDP president Chandrababu Naidu, West Bengal CM and TMC chief Mamata Banerjee, Delhi CM and AAP president Arvind Kejriwal, Kerala CM and CPI(M) leader Pinarayi Vijayan, Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayansamy, BSP leader Mayawati, CPI(M) boss Sitaram Yachury, SP chief Akhilesh Yadav, RJD leader Tejashvi Yadav, Sharad Yadav, RLD leader Ajit Singh, JVM leader Babulal Marandi, HD Deve Gowda, Mallikharjuna Kharge, Jaipal Reddy, Margaret Alva, Veerappa Moily, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Kamal Haasan and host of other leaders.
The warm exchange of greetings and shaking of hands that the leaders on the stage displayed clearly showed that they were ready to script a new chapter of unity among themselves ahead of the next year’s crucial political battle. Akhilesh and Mayawati were seen talking amiably with Tejashvi and Mamata, while Sonia was smilingly reciprocating to Mayawati.
In his customary Press conference after taking the oath of office and secrecy, Kumaraswamy justified aligning with the Congress and said his Government will be stable and last for its full term. “I have decided to join the Congress alliance for the sake of the nation to keep the BJP away. This is also an effort for the Opposition unity to fight the BJP in 2019 polls,” he added.
On the galaxy of leaders attending the swearing-in ceremony, he said, “The leaders who came here today didn’t just come up to support my Government, they wanted to send a message to the people that they are coming together for 2019 elections.”
“Never before in a State Government formation had so many leaders come. This is the first time that it has happened in the country. This is also a challenge for me, every step I take will have to be weighed. The expectation that this will be a model for the country is a challenge. I have to also look at the promises I have made in my manifesto,” Kumaraswamy said.
Kumaraswamy succeeds BS Yeddyurappa, who resigned after three days of swearing-in without proving his majority on the floor of the House. Kumaraswamy is heading a coalition Government for the second time.
The BJP boycotted the swearing-in and party workers protested across the State against the “unholy alliance”. In the May 12 election, voters gave a hung Assembly in 222 constituencies, with 37 for the JD(S), 78 for the Congress and 104 for the BJP, which fell seven short of 111-halfway mark for a simple majority.
As part of the coalition agreement, the Congress will get Deputy CM post, 22 Cabinet berths and Speaker’s post, and the JD(S) will get 12 berths, including the position of Deputy Speaker. Congress leader and former Minister Ramesh Kumar will be the Speaker. While Governor Vajubhai R Vala has given 15 days to Kumaraswamy to prove his majority, the Congress leader in charge of Karnataka KC Venugopal said the floor test would be on Friday.
Meanwhile, intense bargaining is underway between the Congress and the JD(S) leaders for ministerial berths. This was the reason why no Minister took oath along with Kumaraswamy. The oath-taking for the Ministers might take place on May 29 after the floor test is over.
It is also reported that Congress strongman and Vokkaliga leader DK Shivakumar, who played a key role in “guarding” the Congress-JD(S) MLAs against any “poaching “ bid, was upset for not getting the Deputy CM’s post. However, Congress leader Venugopal pacified Shivakumar and assured him that he will be made the State party chief.
Talking to reporters on the sidelines of the ceremony, Mamata said, “We are here to strengthen the regional parties. We can meet each other, talk to each other.
The Congress is a separate party, it will do its own thing. We are here at the invitation of Kumaraswamy. His is also from a regional party”.
Responding to Amit Shah’s statement that Karnataka development will have no impact on the BJP, she said, “It is their prerogative to say what they want to say.
We can only say what we have to say. We are not scared nor will be cowed down. We are here to strengthen the regional party”.
“If the regional parties come together, they become strong. This should be understood by all. Like the farmers say, ‘whoever fights us will perish’. Regional parties cannot be taken lightly. If the regional parties become strong, it benefits the nation as it too becomes strong,” she added.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu ducked direct questions on unity under Rahul Gandhi and said, “We have come here to express solidarity with Kumaraswamy”.
He said, “We are expressing our solidarity and also in future we will work together. Regional parties are all here. We want to express our solidarity and also this is a very good occasion and a very good event. Kumaraswamy is taking oath”.
To a question on whether he is ready to meet Sonia and Rahul, he said, “What I am saying we are expressing solidarity with Kumaraswamy. What we are doing is to promote more and more regional parties. We want to strengthen…that is Mamataji’s mission and even ours.”
G Parameshwara, the newly appointed Deputy Chief Minister, is a first Dalit leader in the State. He is a former agricultural scientist with an Australian PhD. He won from Koratagere constituency. He plays a crucial role for the Congress and always dreamt of becoming the Chief Minister of the State.
He is the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president and has held the position since 2010. He was Minister of State for Higher Education in the SM Krishna Government. Paramaeshwara was also the Speaker during the rule of the undivided JD(S) from 1994-1999.
Parameshwara’s defeat in 2013 helped Siddaramaiah to become the Chief Minister. Parameshwara joined the Congress in 1989 as the KPCC’s joint secretary. He joined the party on the insistence of Rajiv Gandhi and helped consolidate the party in the State.
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