New Delhi: Hopeful
of a comeback in Karnataka, the Congress has to overcome
factionalism and select the right candidates if it has to return
to power in the state in May after seven years.
"Curbing infighting and selecting the right candidates would be
crucial for our victory," a senior Congress leader who did not
wish to be named told IANS.
Karnataka will vote for a 224 member house (one nominated
Anglo-Indian member makes it 225) on May 5. The result will be out
May 8. A win in Karnataka could boost the Congress morale in
southern India, especially after the exit of the DMK from the
Congress-led United Progressive Alliance over the Sri Lankan
The May 5 ballot is also significant as the Congress will be
contesting a big state after Rahul Gandhi became the party's vice
president in January.
Earlier, Congress failed to retain power in 2004 assembly polls,
won 64 seats and formed a coalition government with Janata Dal-Secular
with N. Dharam Singh as chief minister.
The coalition collapsed in 2006 as JD-S leader H. D. Kumaraswamy,
son of former prime minister and JD-S president H D Deve Gowda,
tied up with BJP to form a government. Kumaraswamy became the
chief minister and BJP's B. S. Yeddyurappa was his deputy.
The arrangement was Kumaraswamy will vacate his chair after 20
months paving way for Yeddyurappa as chief minister for the
remaining 20 months of the assembly.
But Kumaraswamy did not keep his word and the BJP-JD-S coalition
collapsed forcing early assembly elections in 2008, instead of
The Congress, which has been out of power in Karnataka for seven
years, lost the state to the Bharatiya Janata Party in 2008
primarily due to infighting and wrong selection of candidates, say
The Congress contested 222 out of 224 seats in 2008, won 80
against 110 of the BJP, which formed the government with the
support of five independents. Later, some Congress legislators
defected to the BJP, bringing down its tally to 71.
The mood in the Congress camp in 2013 is upbeat after it left the
ruling BJP behind in the recent urban local body polls, where the
party won three out of seven major city corporations. These
include Bellary, Mangalore and Davanagere. It was the single
largest party in Mysore and Gulbarga.
Realising that the stakes are high given a divided BJP, especially
after the exit of former chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, who is
now with the Karnataka Janata Party, the Congress is leaving
nothing to chance.
Defence Minister and senior leader A.K. Antony has been made in
charge of the panel to ensure smooth coordination and monitor the
In New Delhi, initial consultations with state leaders, before the
party's central poll panel screens the list of probable
candidates, have already begun, said party sources.
The Central Election Committee is likely to meet March-end, and
the final list of candidates is expected in the first week of
"There is a huge rush of aspirants. The problem is more than two
equally capable candidates on many seats," said another leader.
The Congress is also grappling with over 20 rebels and BJP
dissidents who are in the queue to join the party.
According to Congress insiders, the task of selecting the right
candidates is challenging for the central leadership keeping in
mind around a dozen feedback dossiers for all the 224
constituencies now available with the party.
Under instructions from Rahul Gandhi, the general secretary in
charge of Karnataka, Madhusudan Mistry, has obtained direct
feedback from the district unit chiefs for the first time.
In 2008, only the state unit chief took feedback from the district
In another first, the central observers, who toured all the 224
constituencies last month, have also submitted their reports to
the party leadership.
Besides, the Congress has done an internal survey on its prospects
in Karnataka, said party sources.
"Reconciling the various reports would be a challenge," said a
(Amit Agnihotri can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)