While the nation speculates over the next Prime Minister, in the Karnataka Congress all speculation is over the next chief minister. Complacency and infighting for the top job, many in the Congress headquarters here fear, may mar the party’s chances. The voting for the Assembly elections is scheduled on May 5, and the counting on 8.
Opponents of Congress Legislative Party leader, Siddaramaiah—the front-runner among the CM hopefuls—accuse him of cornering the lion’s share of MLA tickets for “his candidates’’ in the first list of 177 announced last Friday. Sources say, Congress President Sonia Gandhi had made several changes in the list before she left for a medical check-up in the US.
Disgruntled, old Congress hands who feel they have been edged out in the race by “outsiders who have taken over the party’’ make the usual complaints about “party tickets sold to undeserving candidates for anything between `2 and `5 crore.”
They complain that even the three broad categories—women's seats, merit seats and influential seats—as marked out by the party’s vice president Rahul Gandhi has been overlooked. They claim it’s a Kuruba-dominated election, adding that the community has generated funds worth `150 crore to prop up their CM hopefuls.
Siddaramaiah is not the only one trying to elbow his rivals, says an AICC office-bearer. Dalit leader and the Congress Karnataka PCC chief G Parameshwara too is in the fray. The leader says Union Minister Mallikarjun Kharge, has a better chance over other senior leaders like K H Munniappa N Dharam Singh and C K Jaffer Sharief; the last two because of their failing health. Not many of their candidates too have found favours in the first list, in which 64 sitting MLAs have been repeated along with 44 former ministers and 49 new faces. S M Krishna has vocalised his angst about being sidelined. He is crucial for the Congress’ in Bangalore, which has no less than 28 seats, and therefore might get accommodated later. Sources in the AICC are not ruling out his chances to be CM. Former minister D K Shiv Kumar is also a candidate for the CM’s chair. Meanwhile, Union Minister Veerappa Moily is also keeping a close watch over the elections. If the party does as well as expected, former cinestar Ambarish and Moily will also stake their claim. But Moily is on the back foot over allegations of wrong-doings by his family trust. Sources say Ambarish is contesting and has a better chance of being the CM if the Congress comes to power. The list could get even longer than what the Congress HQ has planned.
The Sunday Standard