Yet to finalise its candidates for the May 5 assembly polls, the Congress in Karnataka is being threatened with dissidence with supporters and opponents of probables holding demonstrations at the party office here. The demonstrations started Monday and continued Tuesday with indications that the situation in the party would worsen once the candidates for 224 constituencies are announced in the next few days. The 225-member assembly has one nominated member.
The party Sunday faced the embarrassment of several of its women leaders staging a sit-in outside Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s residence in New Delhi, demanding that more women be fielded in the polls. The party is likely to come out with the first list of candidates April 5, ending an exercise, on for weeks, to pick winnable nominees while balancing equations based on caste, religion, region and kinship.
“Our first list should be out April 5,” said state Congress president G. Parameshwara, who returned to Bangalore late Sunday after a week of hectic parleys in New Delhi to draw up the list of names for final approval by Gandhi. Nominations open April 10 and close April 17. Vote count is slated for May 8.
In addition, Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee president G Parameshwar, and opposition leader in the assembly Siddaramaiah, who returned from New Delhi on Monday, are compelled to handle the situation with all their tact, as differences of opinion are likely to result in desertion of party and filing of nomination by disgruntled party workers as independents.
In the meanwhile, a supporter of ticket aspirant, P N Krishnamurty, demanding ticket for his leader from Rajarajeshwarinagar assembly constituency in the city, poured kerosene on himself and made a self-immolation bid. The police intervened, foiled his attempt, and took him into custody. Siddaramaiah, complaining of variation in blood pressure and gastric problems, has got himself admitted into a hospital.
The protestors were against putting up candidates like C S Putte Gowda, who recently crossed over from JD(S) to Congress, from Shravanabelagola constituency, Muniratna, a corporator of Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) from Rajarajeshwari Nagar, and Tejaswini Sriramesh from Bangalore (south) constituency.
Several BBMP corporators and office bearers of Gottigere block Congress committee have expressed anger at the clearance of Tejaswini’s name, terming her as a rank outsider. Geeta Rajanna, aspirant from Turuvekere, is angry at the decision of allotting ticket to K Manju, a film producer.
“Manju was also identified with KJP, and the leaders, who guaranteed me a ticket from here under women’s quota, deceived me,” she said.
The Congress office looked like having been swarmed by a sea of humanity holding placards and shouting slogans, and the police had to put up barricades to stop them. The leaders are worried that the rebellion might spread like wild fire once the official list of selected candidates is released. In order to be able to handle the protestors, the party is believed to be planning to release lists of selected candidates in batches spread over several days, it is said.
BJP FACING a different kind of problem
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is facing a different kind of problem in selecting candidates as desertion from its ranks continues. About 14 of its legislators have quit the assembly or legislative council and also the party to join the Karnataka Janata Party headed by former BJP leader B.S. Yeddyurappa. On Monday, one more BJP legislative council member, Mohan Limbikai, quit the council and the party to join the KJP. Some more assembly and council members may quit the BJP in the next few days.
However, Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar told reporters here Tuesday that the party would release the first list of candidates April 5 when the BJP parliamentary board is scheduled to meet in New Delhi to give its final approval. The third major party, Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S), claims it has finalised the names of its candidate but would release the list next week, giving rise to speculation that the party is waiting for the Congress and the BJP to come out their lists first. JD-S state president and former chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy, however, has denied this was the reason for not releasing the list. “It is a strategy,” he has claimed. Yeddyurappa, who has declared that his main goal is to wipe out the BJP in the state, has already released the names of KJP candidates for about 120 seats.