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Stars Congress is using to swing poll fortunes

April 24, 2008 12:27 IST

Currently, he is the favourite punching bag for the Opposition and the Left supporters of the UPA government. His 'neo-liberal' policies and 'Harvard outlook' might annoy sections of his party and its allies, but the Congress says you can't keep a good man down, and has decided to field Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram as star campaigner in the upcoming Karnataka assembly polls.

A general secretary of the party says, "The Union finance minister is considered one of the party's urban faces and will help catch votes in cities."

He is not the only one. Another Congress administrator -- this time in the line of fire within the party -- will also be deployed in the state. Vilasrao Deshmukh, the chief minister of Maharashtra, has been asked to campaign in the areas of Karnataka adjacent to his state.

He will be projected as the symbol of Congress' good governance.

"His presence will also be helpful to garner support of the large Marathi-speaking population living in the northern part of Karnataka," says an All India Congress Committee general secretary.

Among other chief ministers, Y S Rajasekhara Reddy of Andhra Pradesh and Digambar Kamat of Goa will also appear in the publicity act for the party.

Meetings and press conferences are being arranged for Chidambaram by party managers, especially in cities like Bangalore and Mysore. The Bangalore area, with 28 assembly seats, is considered crucial for the party to come back to power.

However, despite presenting the Union Budget with the mother of all farm loan waivers, the finance minister will not be deployed in the rural areas of the state. The PM too, will campaign in the urban centres.

According to party sources, the finance minister has limited appeal in villages and the credit for the loan waiver package of Rs 60,000 crore should be associated with Congress president Sonia Gandhi and general secretary Rahul Gandhi, both of whom will campaign extensively in the state. Moreover, the loan waiver package is yet to show the desired results.

The party has also decided to confine S M Krishna, the former chief minister who was hurriedly summoned back from his gubernatorial assignment, to the Mysore-Bangalore area of the state.

According to party sources, the Congress' hopes to regain power are pinned on the first and third phases of the election. The first phase (89 assembly segments) will cover the entire southern Karnataka along with Bangalore and Mysore. In the third phase, 69 constituencies of the northern part will go to polls.
Saubhadra Chatterji in New Delhi
Source: