The Karnataka unit of the Congress is yet to name its chief ministerial candidate.
S M Krishna, former chief minister and Union minister, has been forced into retirement by the party top brass.
According to sources inside the Congress, Union Minister Mallikarjuna Kharge and Karnataka Leader of the Opposition Siddaramaiah are frontrunners for the post.
Siddaramaiah, despite his credentials as a crowd puller, is still considered to be a new entrant. He had left the Janata Dal-Secular six years ago and joined the Congress. Senior Congress leaders like state party president G Parameshwar may oppose his elevation to the CM’s post.
The Congress’s other option -- Kharge -- is a more acceptable candidate. He has been considered to be the CM-in-waiting for a while; he has earlier lost the coveted position to Krishna and Dharam Singh. Kharge's aspirations for the top post may be dashed once again if Siddaramaiah puts up an excellent show and attracts a huge voter base.
Kharge, a well-known leader in northern Karnataka, is unlikely to campaign too much in the state due to his political engagements in Delhi.
Siddaramaiah enjoys a strong following within the party. He will also attract the votes of the Kuruba community which will help the Congress in the crucial region of Mysore. If denied the CM’s post, he can engineer a revolt and scuttle the party’s chances in the state. The Congress, which has had a ringside view of the destruction wrought by feuds within the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, will not allow that to happen.
If neither of these candidates makes it to the CM’s post, the party may fall back on senior but low-profile leaders like Parameshwar or K H Muniyappa. The Congress’s last choice will be veteran leader Oscar Fernandes, who is known for his proximity to the Gandhi family.
The party has intentionally shied away from naming its chief ministerial candidate. It is currently riding high on its recent success in the local body polls and does not want any infighting to break out. The Congress, which wants all the leaders to herald a united campaign in Karnataka, will announce its chief ministerial candidate once the polls get over.
The party’s campaign committee will be headed by Veeranna Mathikatti and D K Shiva Kumar while the strategy committee will be headed by C M Ibrahim. The central committee, with Parameshwar and Siddaramaiah, will be headed by A K Antony. The Congress has taken care to cater to members of all communities by including their leaders in these committees -- Mathkatti represents the Lingayat community, Shivkumar represents the Vokkaliga community, the Muslim community is represented by Ibrahim, the Dalit community is represented by Parameshwar and Other Backward Classes are represented by Siddaramaiah.
Image: Mallikarjuna Kharge and Siddaramaiah