Cong finds it hard to choose candidate for LS bypolls

Simmering differences among various factions in the Congress and the absence of strong candidates have thrown a huge challenge to the ruling party, which is said to be doing all it can to emerge victorious in the coming byelections to the Bangalore Rural and Mandya parliamentary constituencies.

Winning the bypolls scheduled on August 21 has become a prestige issue to the Congress as it is the first election being held after the party came to power in the recently held Assembly polls. Besides, the bypolls are seen as a trendsetter for the crucial Lok Sabha elections next year.

The bypolls have been necessitated following the resignation of H D Kumaraswamy and N Cheluvarayaswamy of the JD(S) as the Bangalore Rural and Mandya MPs, respectively.

But the faction-ridden party has not been able to shortlist candidates so far. Both the constituencies are located in the Vokkaliga belt of the Old Mysore region. But a section of the community leaders, especially the followers of S M Krishna, are upset with the party for sidelining them.

Ever since the formation of his government, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has been trying to build an image for himself as a Ahinda (Kannada acronym for minorities, backward classes and dalits) leader. There is another section of senior leaders like KPCC chief G Parameshwara who are cut up with the chief minister for not taking them into confidence in running the government.

The party decided not to induct senior leader D K Shivakumar, a staunch Krishna follower, into the Cabinet as he was facing allegations of corruption. But it now badly needs Shivakumar to face the Bangalore Rural bypoll. It wants him to field his brother D K Suresh in the constituency as the party candidate.

For, Shivakumar is the only Vokkaliga leader in the party who is strong enough to take on the might of the father-son duo of H D Deve Gowda and H D Kumaraswamy.

It is said Shivakumar has set a condition to the party to make him a minister for his
brother to contest from Bangalore Rural. If the party fails to take Shivakumar into confidence, it is feared that he would sabotage the Congress’ chances of winning the bypoll. Hence, it is said the party has assured him to fulfill his demand after the bypoll.

Mandya has posed a bigger problem for the party. The two big Vokkaliga leaders – Krishna and Housing Minister Ambareesh – do not see eye to eye. Here too the party does not have a strong candidate and the followers of both leaders are vying for the party ticket. The party has entrusted the responsibility of the Mandya bypoll to Siddaramaiah who hails from neighbouring Mysore.

But Siddaramaiah, sources said, has not maintained good relations with Krishna. So much so, he has not paid a even courtesy visit to Krishna after becoming the chief minister. Any move to neglect Krishna and his followers would prove costly for the party in the bypoll.

So, chances are more that the party would chose a ‘neutral’ candidate in the byelection, sources said.

JD(S) still undecided

The Janata Dal (S) is also facing the problem of non-availability of a strong candidate. The
party leaders are still holding discussions on the candidate choice. The party is said to have zeroed in on Anita Kumaraswamy, wife of JD(S) State president H D Kumaraswamy, for the Bangalore Rural constituency. But she is learnt to have refused the offer. In Mandya, the party is considering the name of C S Puttaraju, but Cheluvarayaswamy has proposed the name of MLC Ramakrishna as the candidate.

BJP may field Muniraju

BJP State Yuva Morcha vice president Tulasi Muniraju is likely to be the party’s candidate for the Bangalore Rural constituency. The name of R Ashoka is also doing the rounds, but the former deputy chief minister is said to be reluctant to be the candidate.

A meeting of party workers and leaders of the Bangalore Rural unit on Thursday shortlisted Muniraju’s name and forwarded the same to the State unit. However, a final decision on his candidature is likely to be taken by the State BJP Election Committee on July 27, party sources said.

Muniraju, a Vokkaliga, hails from Bangalore South Assembly constituency which is part of the Bangalore (Rural) Lok Sabha seat. BJP has so far failed to make inroads into Bangalore Rural and is planning a long-term strategy to make its presence felt in the constituency, sources said.

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