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Cong mulls over candidates to lead party in K'taka polls

March 21, 2013 00:15 IST

A victory in Karnataka could signal to Congress allies that it is not fully out of the reckoning, reports Renu Mittal

With the Karnataka assembly elections to be held on May 5 and the counting on May 8, the Congress party has decided not to project anyone as a potential chief minister in the run up to the assembly polls.

The Congress president has appointed Union Defence Minister A K Antony as the chairman of a newly constituted group to co-ordinate and monitor the Karnataka assembly elections. The other members of the group are Ambika Soni (who has been general secretary in charge of Karnataka in an earlier avatar), Vayalar Ravi, Luizinho Falerio and Jitender Singh MOS in defence. The All India Congress Committee general secretary in charge of Karnataka, the Pradesh Congress Committee president and the Congress Legislature Party leader are ex-officio members of the group.

Falerio was recently made the chairman of the screening committee for Karnataka while Jitender Singh is the member of the screening committee. He is known to be close to Rahul Gandhi and the young vice president is obviously grooming young leaders who will report to him, and who will be able to handle bigger responsibility in the future, particularly in the organisation.

There was a demand in certain quarters that S M Krishna should be projected as the leader as this would help the Congress in urban seats and give it an experienced face for the polls. But obviously the leadership has thought it wiser not to project Krishna, who has been sulking of late and is seen by younger leaders like Rahul as too old. It is felt that a younger face would attract the voters more.

At a time when the Bharatiya Janata Party is a divided house after the exit of former chief minister B S Yeddyurappa, the Congress is hopeful of coming close to forming the government and the recent local body elections have given the Congress an edge, though not a decisive edge as the party was hoping for.

With the Congress looking a little down at the centre after the exit of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam from the government, a victory in Karnataka could go a long way in boosting the morale of the party, said a senior party functionary. It could also signal to the remaining allies that the Congress is not fully out of the reckoning as a win at this crucial juncture could do the Congress a world of good.

But the general consensus is that to achieve a win in Karnataka, the Congress needs to pick the right candidates with a great deal of thought and judiciousness. Any wrong move could dilute the advantage it has. Most senior leaders of Karnataka are of the view that the "buying and selling" of candidates must not be allowed as it could mean the difference between defeat and victory.

The Congress, say senior leaders, may be willing to do business with Deve Gowda and the Janata Dal (S) in the event that the numbers fall short, but certainly there are no chances of a pre-poll alliance with the JD-S, say party sources.

Renu Mittal in New Delhi