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Siddaramaiah sworn in as Karnataka Chief Minister, new regime gives ‘in-principle’ nod to honour poll promises

BENGALURU: Congress leader Siddaramaiah was sworn in as Karnataka Chief Minister in a grand ceremony here on Saturday and the new dispensation held its first Cabinet meet that gave an in-principle approval to implement its poll promises, estimated to cost the exchequer about Rs 50,000 crore annually.

A galaxy of opposition leaders, including Chief Ministers of non-BJP ruled States, took part in the mega event signifying solidarity with the Congress party to take on the BJP next year in the Lok Sabha elections.

Heralding the return of the Congress government after a gap of five years, leaders shook hands warmly and embraced each other at the ceremony. The new government at its maiden Cabinet meeting, soon after the swearing-in ceremony, accorded ”in-principle” approval to the Congress’ five ‘guarantees’ promised before the elections. Siddaramaiah, addressing a press conference later, cited estimates and said implementing poll assurances would cost the exchequer about Rs 50,000 crore a year. He asserted that the pre-poll assurances would be implemented notwithstanding the financial implications, if any.

State Congress President D K Shivakumar was sworn in as Deputy Chief Minister, along with eight legislators as Ministers at the event held exactly a week after the party swept the Assembly polls in Karnataka.

Governor Thaawarchand Gehlot administered the oath of office and secrecy to the Chief Minister and his Cabinet at Sree Kanteerava Stadium here, where Siddaramaiah had taken oath in 2013, when he became CM for the first time.

The legislators who were sworn in as ministers are: G Parameshwara, K H Muniyappa, K J George, M B Patil, Satish Jarkiholi, Priyank Kharge (AICC President M Mallikarjun Kharge’s son), Ramalinga Reddy, and B Z Zameer Ahmed Khan.

Among eight MLAs inducted into the Cabinet, three are SCs, and one each from Christian, Lingayat, ST, Reddy and Muslim communities. Siddaramaiah is a Kuruba and Shivakumar belongs to the Vokkaliga community.

According to Congress sources, the party high command approved the list of eight ministers, against the earlier plan of inducting a much higher number of legislators into the cabinet, as there were allegedly differences between Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar over some names, during the discussions held till late last night in New Delhi over cabinet formation.

This apparently caused some displeasure among ministerial aspirants as they could not make it to the first list, sources said, pointing out that there is no representation for women in the first list.

With the sanctioned strength of the Karnataka Cabinet being 34, there are many aspirants for ministerial berths.

The Congress on Thursday named Siddaramaiah as the next Chief Minister and Shivakumar, a strong contender for the top post, as his only deputy, ending the deadlock.

Subsequently, a meeting of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) later on Thursday formally elected Siddaramaiah as its leader, following which he staked his claim with the Governor, who invited him to form the government.

The 75-year-old became the CM for the second time after his earlier five-year stint from 2013. While 61-year-old Shivakumar, who had earlier worked as a minister under Siddaramaiah, would also continue as the party’s Karnataka state president till Parliamentary elections are over next year.

The daunting task that Siddaramaiah is expected to face in the coming days is allocation of portfolios to the new Ministers, and expanding the cabinet with the right combinations that will strike a balance in having representatives from all communities, regions, factions, and also from among the old and new generation of legislators.

Siddaramaiah, who chaired the cabinet meeting, said the ‘guarantees’ would ”most likely” be implemented after the next cabinet meeting.

Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge, former party president Rahul Gandhi, general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra attended the swearing-in ceremony, while former AICC president Sonia Gandhi was absent. Chief Ministers of Congress-ruled states Ashok Gehlot (Rajasthan), Bhupesh Baghel (Chhattisgarh) and Sukhvinder Singh Sukku (Himachal Pradesh) and several top party leaders were also in attendance.

The event marked by bonhomie saw the participation of Chief Ministers M K Stalin (Tamil Nadu), Hemant Soren (Jharkhand), Nitish Kumar (Bihar) and Tejashwi Yadav (Deputy CM-Bihar). Also, NCP president Sharad Pawar, National Conference supremo Farooq Abdullah, PDP chief Mahbooba Mufti, actor-politician Kamal Haasan, CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury and CPI General Secretary D Raja were among others in attendance.

The Congress promised to implement the ‘guarantees’ — 200 units of free power to all households (Gruha Jyoti), Rs 2,000 monthly assistance to the woman head of every family (Gruha Lakshmi), 10 kg of rice free to every member of a BPL household (Anna Bhagya), Rs 3,000 every month for unemployed graduate youth and Rs 1,500 for unemployed diploma holders (both in the age group of 18-25) for two years (YuvaNidhi), and free travel for women in public transport buses (Shakti), on the very first day of assuming power in the state.

Siddaramaiah said the Assembly would be convened for three days from May 22, during which the newly elected MLAs shall be administered oath. The Speaker’s election is also on the cards.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, fomer Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda and former Karnataka CM Basavaraj Bommai congratulated Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar on their appointment as CM and Deputy CM of Karnataka.

In the May 10 elections to the 224-member Assembly, the Congress scored an emphatic victory by bagging 135 seats, while the ruling BJP and former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda-led Janata Dal (Secular) secured 66 and 19 seats respectively.

Source: Press Trusst of India

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