Candidate selection in Karnataka: Congress facing problem of plenty?



New Delhi: Congress is apparently having a tough task in finalising the names of candidates for the May 5 assembly elections in Karnataka.

"The Congress victory in the recently-concluded urban body polls has created a huge demand for tickets from the party as there is a clear impression that we are coming to power," said a senior party leader.

"There are a number of potential candidates, who will have to be denied tickets. We have to be mindful of the impact," the leader said, requesting anonymity.

There are about a dozen former BJP MLAs, who are now hopeful of getting tickets from Congress which is finding it difficult to accommodate them as it has its own pack of assertive leaders in these seats.

These BJP MLAs resigned at the spur by one or the other regional satraps of Congress, who seems to be pushing hard to ensure that they get tickets.

Yesterday, state Youth Congress president Rizwan Arshad offered to resign in protest against denial of ticket from Muslim-dominated Narasimharaja assembly constituency in Mysore.

However, Youth Congress chief Rajiv Satav, remained non- committal on the Rizwan resignation issue only saying, "Youth Congress of Karnataka has put requests for tickets for a few. The official list of candidates is yet not out and we are hopeful that the central leadership of the party will consider our demands. There is no formal announcement."

Sources said the party preferred sitting MLA from the area Tanveer Sait there as it was felt that denial of ticket to him could affect Congress' prospects in a number of other seats in this region as his family wields considerable influence there.

Rizwan's father was also a Congressman but had later joined the H D Devegowda's Janta Dal (Secular).

Apparently mindful that the regional heavyweights could affect the overall ticket distribution plan, Congress central leadership set up a high-level committee headed by A K Antony with senior Union ministers as its members, first of its kind for any assembly election.

In absence of one leader acceptable to all communities as well as different factions in the party, there is a worry that if this one-upmanship among various senior leaders continue, it could lead to a situation of a slip between the cup and the lip.

Controversy had earlier sprang during the finalisation of names of ticket contenders at the PCC level.

Congress already decided to give tickets to four former Congress rebels, who won as independents in last assembly elections and served in the BJP government as ministers.

The first list of party candidates for around 100 of the 224 assembly seats was finalised by the party yesterday and the majority of the rest are likely to be finalised tomorrow.

The party hopes to gain the maximum in this quadrangular contest among Congress, BJP, Janata Dal (secular) and former Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa's Karnataka Janata Party (KJP).

The recent urban body polls results proved that while Yeddyurappa's KJP may not get more seats than the BJP, it can definitely play spoilsport for the Karnataka's ruling party.

Congress has sought to make a dent in the BJP's Lingayat base by projecting Veeranna Mathikatti and made him the head of party's campaign committee.

Lingayats constitute around 20 per cent of the population in Karnataka with Vokkaligas with around 18 per cent following closely. Besides, these OBCs constitute of around 40 percent and Muslims 10 to 12 per cent.

While a prominent Muslim face C M Ibrahim, once a close associate of former Prime Minister Deve Gowda, has been made chairman of the Congress Election Strategy Committee, K R Ramesh Kumar, a Vokkaliga has been made the Chairman of the Election Manifesto Committee. PCC chief G Parmeshwara is a Dalit while Siddharamiah, an OBC, is the Congress Legislature Party leader.

PTI