Siddaramaiah,who led the Congress party’s battle against the BJP government’s corruption in Karnataka,was today chosen to be the new Chief Minister in a hotly-contested race,edging out party veteran and Union Labour Minister M Mallikarjuna Kharge.
Two days after Congress made a spectacular comeback with an absolute majority in the elections,the 64-year-old backward class leader was chosen at a meeting of the newly-elected MLAs in the presence of four AICC observers headed by Defence Minister A K Antony.
Siddaramaiah,who had joined Congress from JD(S) six years and was a Deputy Chief Minister under Dharam Singh,was projected by the party as an ‘unanmimous choice’ but there were enough indications that the choice was not easy. The legislators were asked to give their choice in writing,party sources said.
With the fight getting tougher between the two aspirants,the AICC team first chose to elicit individual opinion.
Siddaramaiah moved a resolution requesting that the choice of CLP leader be left to Congress President Sonia Gandhi.
However,the team – apparently to give out a message that it has followed due deligence on the exercise and that the central leadership is not thrusting its choice – asked the legislators to express their choice,in a secret ballot.
Thereafter,Antony announced in the CLP meeting the election of Siddaramaiah,a backward classes leader who hailed from the Kuruba community,the third largest caste which is believed to have solidly backed the party in the May 5 Assembly elections.
Kharge,who was a serious contender,was seen leaving the KPCC office soon before the announcement of Siddaramaiah’s choice was made by Antony.