Cooperation Minister K N Rajanna on Saturday floated the idea of having three more Deputy Chief Ministers in Karnataka and said he will discuss it with the Congress high command, keeping in mind the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
He pitched for Deputy Chief Minister posts to be given to leaders from Veerashaiva-Lingayat, SC/ST and minority communities.
Currently, D K Shivakumar from the Vokkaliga community is the Deputy Chief Minister in the Siddaramaiah-led cabinet. He is also the state Congress president.
"Lok Sabha elections are at our doorstep, we are seeing that all the parties are making preparations for the polls. It is our intention that the Congress should win the maximum number of seats in Karnataka, we are also confident that we will win," Rajanna told reporters in Tumakuru.
"One post (DCM) should be given to a leader from the SC/ST community, second for a minority community leader and third for a Veerashaiva community leader as there is a feeling the community has gone away from the Congress and it has been proved from this Assembly poll results that the Veershaiva community votes has mostly come back to the party," he added.
Rajanna, pitching for three DCMs is notwithstanding the Congress' decision that Shivakumar will be 'the only' Deputy CM, amid stiff competition between him and Siddaramaiah for the Chief Minister's post after the Assembly election results in May this year.
It was said that him (Shivakumar) being the only DCM was one of the commitments which the Congress leadership made to Shivakumar, while convincing him to give up his claim for the CM post and to take up the role of deputy chief minister.
Noting that it is his personal opinion (appointing three more Deputy CMs) to get more support from SC/STs, minorities and the Veerashaiva community, the Minister said he felt it would be right to share it with the party high command.
"I have decided to write a letter to Congress high command in this regard and will do so in a couple of days. As the Congress Working Committee meeting is on in Hyderabad, they will all be busy, and I too will be busy with general body meetings of Cooperatives in September, so I will be meeting all our high command leaders in the first week of next month and will try to convince them on this," he added.
Asked who should be given the Deputy CM posts, Rajanna, from the ST community, said according to him, it was for the high command to decide.
"I don't want (DCM post), but the high command should give it to leaders from these communities. The high command decision is our decision," he said.
Noting that several people in the party shared a similar opinion (about having more DCMs), Rajanna said they have told him personally his proposal was good for the party's interests.
Asked whether Shivakumar and his brother- D K Suresh, an MP, were upset with him for pitching for more DCMs, he said, "Why will they be upset, I haven't spoken against them. Shivakumar is a DCM and party state unit President. He is ably organising the party as he is a good organisation man. I don't think there is a need for him to get upset."
Shivakumar had chosen not to respond to Rajanna's statement to a news channel on Friday calling for three Deputy CMs, while Suresh told reporters, "You should ask Rajanna about it...he is the one running the government."
A section within the Congress is said to be of the opinion that Rajanna's statement was part of a plan by Siddaramaiah's camp to keep Shivakumar in check, amid talks he might seek the CM post after two-and-half years of this government's tenure, and to counter his influence both in the government and party.
However, there have been other different voices within the party regarding the chief minister and deputy CM posts.
Recently, senior Congress leader and MLC B K Hariprasad had said either G Parameshwara (now Home Minister), a Dalit leader and the longest serving Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president should have been made the CM or at least should have been considered for the DCM post, which he had occupied in the past. He had also said Satish Jarkiholi (Public Works Minister) from the ST community should have been made the DCM.
Soon after Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar were announced as the CM and DCM respectively in May, Parameshwara had warned the party of 'trouble' if a Dalit is not made the DCM.
Reacting to Rajanna's statement, Parameshwara said, "There is nothing wrong in him asking. He has to convey it to the Chief Minister and party president. He has said that he will write a letter and meet the high command in this regard...its his personal opinion and he has expressed it."
Rajanna has said it with good intention, he said, "Lok Sabha elections are coming and to take all communities into confidence, he has shared his opinion, but whether to implement it or not is left to the high command...there is nothing wrong in what he has said, but things will be decided by the high command."
IT/BT minister Priyank Kharge said, "Anyone can place their opinion before the Congress central leadership...but I don't feel there is any such proposal (on more DCMs) before the high command."