Karnataka elections: The Congress’ many CMs-in-waiting

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Bangalore: Wednesday, May 8, will be the D-day in the big battle for Karnataka. The countdown has begun for the counting day, and with the high voter turnout (57 per cent in Bangalore and 70 per cent and above in the rest of Karnataka) being an indication of a strong anti-incumbency wave, a tussle on who will be Chief Minister has already begun in the Congress, even as other parties cross their fingers and wait for the best.

The results will decide the fate of 2,940 candidates in 223 Assembly segments. Although Karnataka Assembly has 224 seats, election in Periyapatna in Mysore district had been put off to May 28 following the death of the BJP candidate.

The frontrunner for the post of Chief Minister in the Congress, Siddaramaiah is confident of poll victory. He is expecting 120 seats for the party. He was seen telling his voters, “If I become chief minister, it’s like all of you will be chief minister.”

Below is a list of the Congress’ many CMs-in-waiting:

The top three are the serious contenders, in that order. They have openly staked claim saying they are in the race for the CM’s post.

S Siddaramaiah

Positives: Prominent Kuruba leader; strong in old Mysore region; consolidated all sub-castes of all OBC communities – considered the tallest OBC leader in Karnataka; was Deputy CM twice, made Opposition leader in 2009 despite being a newcomer; was known for some of the best budgets as Finance Minister – has presented 7 budgets in Karnataka.

Negatives: Still being considered an outsider – joined Congress just in 2006.

M Mallikarjuna Kharge

Positives: Seniormost Congress leader after SM Krishna; won ten elections (9 Assembly, 1 Lok Sabha) – never lost; one of the tallest Dalit leaders from backward Hyderabad Karnataka region – he is credited with special status for the region where Congress is likely to do very well; has held important portfolios like Home, Revenue, Water Resources, so vast administrative experience; was KPCC president and leader of Opposition twice; acceptable to the majority Lingayat community; family loyalist of the Gandhis.

Negatives: Doesn’t have mass appeal in rest of Karnataka; being a Central minister can go against him.

Dr G Parameshwar

Positives: Younger than the others in the race, well educated, PhD in agriculture from Australia; appeals to the urban vote-bank with his eruditeness; family loyalist of the Gandhis; has the full backing of SM Krishna.

Negatives: Rank junior, seniors in the party may not accept him as they want their chance now, considering he could still have many more years in politics. OBCs are against him.

M Veerappa Moily

Positives: One of the seniormost leaders; vast administrative experience; Was CM earlier, was Opposition leader and held important portfolios like Finance, Home, Education, Parliamentary Affairs in state government; clean image; party loyalist; the dark hose who’s trying to make a comeback in state politics.

Negatives: Hails from a minuscule community of Devadigas (temple musicians) so no mass/caste appeal; being a Central minister could go against him if party goes with its policy of not having MPs in a state role; may not have backing of many MLAs.

SM Krishna

Positives: Seniormost leader of the party; won first election in 1962; former CM, former KPCC president, former Speaker, held important portfolios in Devaraj Urs government and was MoS finance in Indira Gandhi government; also was MEA, was Governor of Maharashtra; Congress’ biggest Vokkaliga face; urban appeal going with the Congress’ IT image; compromise candidate in case of a serious tie.

Negatives: Age – he is 83, though he has tried to play tennis in front of mediapersons to prove he is fit and fine. Faces opposition in the Old Mysore region with the Ambarish brigade, launching an open war against him even during the last week of campaigning; his city-centric image may not help the Congress win its next election.

KH Muniyappa

Positives: Six time MP, never lost. Very close to the regional parties – JDS and KJP; he would be their choice in case of a hung assembly and they choose the CM – as they both wouldn’t like any of the five above who are considered stronger leaders; A slightly younger Dalit face; a union minister for 9 years; could be the second Dharam Singh – Dharam was made CM in 2004 by Deve Gowda and pulled down in 2006 by Deve Gowda.

Negatives: Confined to Kolar; does not have a pan-Karnataka appeal; lightweight in the party; proximity to the Opposition may go against him;

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