Zee Media Bureau
Bangalore: With the Congress having wrested Karnataka from the BJP, the race for the chief minister`s post has begun within the party.
Among the candidates leading the race are veteran M Mallikarjuna Kharge, also the Union Labour and Employment Minister, and Leader of Opposition in the outgoing Assembly Siddaramaiah.
"I don`t want the post because of my caste (Dalit). I am not interested because of long-standing service to the party. If they think that I am fit for the post, then it is up to them to take a decision. I will abide by any decision the high command takes," Kharge said, putting forth his candidature.
Siddaramaiah was more forthcoming about his candidature, "I am one of the strong contenders."
A backward class leader who joined the Congress six years ago, Siddaramaiah said the decision on chief ministership was, however, left to the Congress high command and the legislature party.
Siddaramaiah, 64, represents Varuna seat in Mysore district. He is a backward class leader belonging to the Kuruba (shepherd) community.
He was in the Janata Dal-Secular but joined the Congress in 2006 after differences with party president HD Deve Gowda over the promotion of his sons in the organisation.
Kharge, 70, is now the tallest Dalit leader in the Congress in the state. He has a reputation of winning nine Assembly polls consecutively.
He reluctantly gave up the Assembly seat in 2009 to contest the Lok Sabha election from Gulbarga in North Karnataka.
Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee president G Parameshwara was also a contender but is now likely out of the race following his loss in Koratagere.
Another name doing the rounds is Union Petroleum Minister M Veerappa Moily, a former state chief minister.
Moily, 73, was the Karnataka chief minister in 1992-94. He has been a central minister, has written several books in Kannada. He is from Coastal Karnataka and belongs to the Devadiga community, who were traditionally temple musicians. He represents Chikkaballapur in the Lok Sabha.
(With Agency inputs)