Sparks fly at Cong CEC meet over seats

Sparks fly at Cong CEC meet over seats

The Congress on Friday deferred the Central Election Committee meeting convened to finalise the candidates for the May 12 Karnataka Assembly elections to Saturday following a bitter fight among senior leaders on giving tickets to their followers.

During two rounds of meetings, sparks flew as leaders, mainly Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, party leader in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjuna Kharge, former chief minister M Veerappa Moily and Pradesh Congress president Parameshwara, differed on names of candidates to be fielded.

As the two rounds failed to resolve the issue of giving tickets to new entrants and some sitting MLAs, the party top brass advised screening committee chairman Madhusudhan Mistry to hold a meeting of senior leaders on Friday night at an undisclosed place to iron out the problems over the selection of candidates. The CEC will meet again on Saturday morning.

The first round of meeting, chaired by national president Rahul Gandhi, began at 10.45 am at 10, Janpath. Mistry, Karnataka in-charge General Secretary K C Venugopal, senior leaders Ashok Gehlot, Ambika Soni and Girija Vyas were also present.

However, former Congress president Sonia Gandhi was not present as she reportedly asked Rahul to decide on the seats.

When there were heated arguments and exchange of words between Siddaramaiah, Kharge and Parameshwara, Rahul was forced to intervene to bring the situation under control.

It is learnt that Kharge stormed out of the meeting around 1 pm even as the discussions continued. A visibly upset Rahul deferred the meeting to 5 pm, a source said. In the second round, Sonia Gandhi was present but she too could not find a solution to the problem.

As the impasse could not be broken even after three hours of meetings in the evening, Sonia reportedly told them to meet at night and resolve the issue. Emerging out of the meeting, party leader Ambika Soni said, "The meeting was inconclusive and will continue on Saturday."

"The central leadership has asked the state leaders to resolve the issue tonight and place the list before the CEC. The CEC will meet on Saturday and is likely to announce the first list by evening," she told reporters.

However, the state leaders refused to speak to waiting reporters.

The differences are mainly over giving tickets to new entrants, including seven JD(S) rebel MLAs, and others.

hile Siddaramaiah and Parameshwara wanted tickets for all the sitting MLAs and new entrants, Kharge and Moily opposed this saying that it would hurt party loyalists. Some leaders also apprehended that many new entrants will not win and would be a liability to the organisation.

When Kharge tried to push his candidates for seats in the North Karnataka region, Siddaramaiah opposed it, according to the source. When Siddaramaiah expressed his desire to contest from both Chamundeshwari in Mysuru district and Badami in Bagalkot, it was opposed by a section of leaders saying it would set a bad precedent.

Kharge opposed giving a ticket to Ashok Kheny from Bidar while Siddaramaiah and Parameshwara strongly batted for his candidature.

Moily, who had kicked up a row over a controversial tweet of money bags, said the priority should be given to loyalists and not newcomers. The leaders differed over even giving tickets to M Y Meti from Bagalkot and N A Haris from Shantinagar.

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