Karnataka's Congress chief minister-designate Siddaramaiah Friday outsmarted union Labour Minister and rival Mallikarjun Kharge to the state's top executive post by securing the majority support of the party's 121 newly-elected lawmakers.
"In the secret ballot held to seek the opinion of the legislators for the chief minister's post, as many as 87 lawmakers preferred Siddaramaiah to Kharge, paving way for the party high command to endorse their choice," a senior Congress leader told IANS on anonymity.
Spilling the beans on how Siddaramaiah got "elected" through a secret ballot for the post, the party leader said though all the legislators unanimously passed a one-line resolution authorising the high command to name the chief minister, party president Sonia Gandhi, in turn, directed the three central observers she deputed for the exercise, to ask the lawmakers individually whom they prefer and revert by evening itself.
Then, the three observers -- Defence Minister A.K. Antony, party's senior leader from Goa Luizinho Faleiro and union Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports Jitendra Singh -- called the legislators individually and sought their opinion in writing on a slip.
"Though the observers did not officially disclose the exact number of legislators who preferred Siddaramaiah to Kharge, as it was a secret ballot, feedback from them individually and collectively later indicated later that nearly three-fourths of them had given their consent to Siddaramaiah for the chief minister's post," the party leader said.
When word went out that Siddaramaiah was the choice of the majority legislators, Kharge gracefully withdrew from the contest and left the party office even before Antony informed the high command about the legislators' choice and Gandhi endorsed it by 5 p.m.
Amid high drama, hundreds of Siddaramaiah's supporters and loyalists waited with bated breath for her return call to Antony.
The prolonged suspense ended suddenly an hour before the high command decision was to be announced by 6 p.m., leading to jubilant scenes at the party's office in the city centre and bursting of fire crackers and gathering of boisterous crowds causing massive traffic snarls in downtown.