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H D Kumaraswamy to take oath as Karantaka CM today, ceremony to be a show of opposition unity

A JD(S)-Congress coalition government headed by H D Kumaraswamy will be sworn-in today in Karnataka at a ceremony attended by a galaxy of opposition leaders and chief ministers, a development that could plant a seed for a broad-based anti-BJP platform before the Lok Sabha polls next year.

Karnataka Congress president G Parameshwara will be sworn-in as the deputy chief minister.

Congress’s Ramesh Kumar, a former minister, will be the next Assembly speaker, while the deputy speaker’s post will go to the JD(S).

The Congress would have 22 ministers and JD(S) 12.

Floor test will be held tomorrow.

The decision to defer the trust vote by a day ostensibly stems from rules that require the election of the speaker before the exercise. The Supreme Court had made an exception when it directed state BJP chief B S Yeddyurappa to prove majority with the pro-tem speaker presiding over the proceedings. A pro-tem speaker’s job is usually limited to administering the oath to the newly-elected members of the House. Kumaraswamy will be the second chief minister to take oath in Karnataka within a week, after Yeddyurappa stepped down without facing the floor test on May 19 in the face of an imminent defeat.

The JD-S’s chief minister-designate said portfolio distribution would be discussed on Thursday and a coordination committee would be formed to facilitate smooth functioning of the coalition.

Kumaraswamy, the third son of JD(S) supremo and former prime minister H D Deve Gowda, will be administered the oath of office and secrecy by Governor Vajubhai Vala at 4:30 pm in front of the Vidhana Soudha, the seat of the government in Bengaluru. A huge stage has been erected in front of the majestic stone building for the ceremony where a host of national and regional leaders are expected to be present to send a message across to the BJP over the shape of things to come in 2019. Government officials and sources in the JD(S) said Congress president Rahul Gandhi, his mother and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan are among those likely to be present.

CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, one of the most vocal votaries of an anti-BJP alliance, Tejashwi Yadav, the Leader of Opposition in the Bihar Assembly, and National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah will also attend the swearing-in ceremony.

BSP chief Mayawati and SP leader Akhilesh Yadav, who have formed an alliance in Uttar Pradesh, would also attend the ceremony.

DMK leader M K Stalin, who was also expected to be present in order to show the burgeoning opposition consolidation against the BJP, has cancelled his Bengaluru visit and would instead head for Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu, where eleven people were killed in police firing on Tuesday.

It will be Kumaraswamy’s second term in office. He had earlier headed the JD(S)-BJP coalition government for 20 months, between February 2006 and October 2007. Managing the contradictions in the coalition may not be a smooth sailing for the 58-year-old leader after the JD(S) and the Congress fought a bitter electoral battle in the state, particularly in the old Mysuru region. Kumaraswamy himself conceded that running the coalition government for the next five years would be a “big challenge” for him.

The first task for him would be a smooth expansion of his Council of Ministers, as the Congress would want to have a big share in the ministerial pie as it has more than double the number of MLAs the JD(S) has. The Congress has 78 lawmakers in the Lower House against the 37 of the JD(S).

A section of Lingayat MLAs of the Congress wanted a person from their community to be the deputy chief minister as Kumaraswamy belongs to another politically influential caste, the Vokkaligas. However, Rahul Gandhi approved the name of Dalit leader G Parameshwara for the post, Venugopal said.

D K Shivakumar, another Vokkaliga leader of the Congress, who emerged as a key figure in keeping the party MLAs together before the trust vote, was also a contender for the deputy chief minister’s chair, but the party high-command opted for Parameshwara.

The BJP, which is the single largest party with 104 MLAs in the 224-member Assembly (effective strength 221), would not allow Kumaraswamy to have a smooth running. The BJP has dubbed the Congress-JD(S) alliance as “unholy” and claimed that the government will not complete its full term.

The saffron party has decided to boycott the oath-taking ceremony and will observe “anti-popular mandate day” today to protest the formation of the coalition government. Senior BJP leaders would hold a protest in front of the Mahatma Gandhi’s statue here, while its workers in black attire will hold demonstrations in districts, state BJP general secretary C T Ravi told reporters.

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