CM selection tough task for Congress

CM selection tough task for Congress

After its victory in Karnataka, a tough task lies ahead for the Congress in selecting the chief minister.

Senior leaders Siddaramaiah and Union Minister for Labour Mallikharjuna Kharge are in the race for the coveted post. As the party won a majority on Wednesday, both claimed to be the contenders. While Siddaramaiah said he “is one of the strong contenders,” Kharge stated that the high command would pick him if he was fit for the post.

They, however, said they would abide by the high command’s decision. It is learnt that the party is planning to install the new government by May 15.
Congress sources said in New Delhi that it would send a team of observers to Bangalore to obtain individual opinions of newly elected party legislators from Karnataka to choose the new chief minister.

The legislative party meeting will be held after the members’ opinion is obtained, Madhusudan Mistry, party general secretary in charge of Karnataka, told Deccan Herald. Based on the report, the high command will take a final decision on who should be the leader of the party, he said.

Party spokesperson Renuka Chowdhary told reporters in New Delhi: “There are several tall leaders who are capable (of becoming the chief minister). We have great respect for Siddaramaiah, Mallikarjun Kharge, Veerappa Moily, S M Krishna and Oscar Fernandes.”

KPCC chief G Parameshwara, too, was a contender, but he is said to be out of the race as he lost the election from Koratagere. However, he still has hopes that the party high command may reward him for what he termed “sacrifice” he made to bring the party to power after a long gap. He said he spent more time building the party by touring the state rather than focussing on development of his constituency.

It is not that Siddaramaiah has many friends in the party for he is considered an outsider by old timers. Going by Congress convention, the high command selects the chief minister. But it is obvious that Siddaramaiah will strive hard for the post. 

Speaking to reporters in Bangalore, Parameshwara said the party high command would soon direct the State unit to convene the legislature party meeting.
“Central observers will be deputed to oversee the meeting. The observers will elicit the opinion of the legislature party on who should be the chief minister. The party high command will take the decision based on the observers’ report,” he said.

The Congress had given prominence to SCs and OBCs in this election. The party distributed tickets after consulting Siddaramaiah, who is a Kuruba (OBC) and Parameshwara, who is an SC. Hence, it was widely believed either of these leaders will be the obvious choice of the party for the chief minister post.

The Siddaramaiah camp said Parameshwara’s defeat had paved the way for Siddaramaiah to become the chief minister. With 2014 parliamentary elections fast approaching, the party may not like to create any unrest by refusing the post to the OBC leader. Besides, the party has done poorly in Tumkur district, Parameshwara’s home district. Of the total 11 seats, the party won four seats, while the JD-S bagged six seats. So Parameshwara has a bad case. Siddaramaiah, it is said, is planning to go to Delhi on Thursday to meet the high command.

However, according to sources, a section of senior and loyal party men are against Siddaramaiah getting the post. He joined the Congress in 2006 after severing ties with the JD-S. Seniors may, therefore, lobby for Kharge. Besides being a dalit, Kharge is one of the senior most leaders and has created a record of winning Assembly elections for the nine times. He reluctantly gave up his Assembly seat and got elected to the Lok Sabha in 2009. It is said that even Parameshwara, a party old-timer, may back Kharge for the post.

Another senior party leader D K Shivakumar, too, said he is a contender for the post. “I have won as MLA for six times. I am also a contender. But it is left to the party high command,” he stated.  Shivakumar is one of the prominent Vokkaliga leaders of the party. He is close confidant of former external affairs minister S M Krishna.

A section of State leaders also believe that a dark horse may emerge. They argue that SCs will be unhappy if an OBC leader is made the chief minister and vice versa. The party would not like to antagonise these important communities ahead of crucial 2014 polls. Hence, it may come up with a surprise candidate either from Vokkaliga or Lingayat communities.

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