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‘My strength is 135’, says Shivakumar amid competition with Siddaramaiah for CM’s post

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Amid speculations about the number of MLAs supporting him and senior party colleague Siddaramaiah for the post of Karnataka Chief Minister, state Congress president D K Shivakumar on Monday said his strength is 135, as under his presidency, the party won the said number of seats in the Assembly polls.

He said he along with Siddaramaiah have been called to Delhi by party high command and that he will be going there late due to personal commitments.

The Congress central leadership will be deciding on the new Chief Minister, after its observers submitted a report on the opinion of the MLAs which they collected in the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting in Bengaluru on Sunday.

“We had made a one line resolution, stating we will leave the matter to party high command, after that some might have shared their personal opinion. I don’t have the strength to speak about other’s numbers, my strength is 135, I’m the party president and under my presidency, the party has won 135 seats in Karnataka, against the double engine government, the corrupt administration and suffering of the people. People have supported us and made us win 135 seats,” Shivakumar said.

Speaking to reporters here, he said, “There has been praise from across the country about Congress’ campaign and unity in Karnataka, but the time was not enough and if there was more cooperation from the local level we could have done even better and increased the numbers, but we are happy.”.

The CLP, which met at a private hotel in Bengaluru on Sunday evening, passed a unanimous resolution authorising All India Congress Committee (AICC) president M Mallikarjun Kharge to pick its leader, who will be the next Chief Minister of Karnataka.

Noting that the Congress leadership has called him and Siddaramaiah to Delhi, Shivakumar said he might be late in going there.

“Since today is my birthday, a lot of people have come to wish me. I have to vist my deity with my family, after going there, I will leave for Delhi. I don’t know what time I will be going to Delhi. I will take whichever flight is available,” he added.

Pointing out that CLP has passed a single line resolution leaving it to high command to decide on the Chief Minister, the KPCC chief said, “Under my leadership 135 MLAs — all of them with one voice have said that the matter should be left to high command.”.

“I don’t have any single number or personal number (of MLAs supporting), whatever my number is Congress number,” he said, highlighting that he had assured former AICC president Sonia Gandhi when she appointed him as KPCC chief, also Rahul Gandhi and Mallikarjun Kharge (former and current AICC chiefs) that his aim was to deliver a Congress government in Karnataka.

The state Congress and its leaders had assured him to work together and deliver a Congress government in Karnataka. “I’m sure we will keep up our promise, and the rest (CM and ministers), the high command will decide,” he said.

Not wanting to respond to a question on claims by other leaders, Shivakumar said, “I don’t want to answer any claims or anything. I’m a single man, I believe in one thing that a single man with courage makes a majority. I have proved it. I don’t want to disclose what all has happened in the last five years and at a future point of time I will disclose.”.

To a question will “Tiger of Sathanur”, as he fondly called in his constituency, become CM of Karnataka, he said, he will leave the matter to Mallikarjun Kharge, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.

“I’m a single man. Gandhi ji said one thing: Be bold hearted when you are defeated and be large hearted when you are victorious. When all our MLAs 15-16 of them left the party (in 2019), when we had a coalition government and lost it , I did not lose my heart. With courage I had taken up the responsibility (as KPCC President),” he said.

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

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