Siddu seeks support of seniors

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Bangalore: May 9: Congress leader Siddaramaiah, after ensuring that he remains the top contender for the chief minister’s post, on Thursday began cobbling support for his candidature from party leaders belonging to different communities.

Ahead of the Friday’s Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting, he held a meeting with around 15 newly-elected Congress MLAs belonging to different castes at a star hotel. It would be difficult for Siddaramaiah, who is from the Kuruba community and positions himself as a OBC leader, to emerge as the front-runner unless he garners supports from all communities and leaders.

Sources in the party said that he is well aware that the ‘outsider’ tag may weigh against him if he does not take all senior leaders into confidence. He joined the Congress only in 2006. For a ‘migrant,’ the party had rewarded him well by appointing him as the CLP leader.

There are too many senior MLAs in the Congress for whom it may be difficult to accept Siddaramaiah as the chief minister, it is said. R V Deshpande, Kagodu Thimmappa, H K Patil, Shamanoor Shivashankarappa, D K Shivakumar, Dr Maalakaraddy are among such seniors.

In the 2008 elections, almost all the senior leaders were defeated and hence accepting Siddaramaiah as the CLP leader was not an issue for the others. But, the situation is now different as 72 former ministers have been elected from the Congress this time. But, everyone would have to accept the decision the high command takes, sources said.  The high command is well aware that it can’t impose a leader from Delhi, which was common in the past. If MLAs are not taken into confidence during the selection, it would be difficult for the CLP leader to function, sources said.

As many as 15 MLAs, including Shivakumar, took part in the Thursday’s meeting.

Siddaramaiah is learnt to have invited Shivakumar to the meeting and sought his support. Interestingly, earlier in the day Shivakumar had announced that he was a contender for the chief minister’s post.

Dr Malakaraddy, Ramalinga Reddy, Dinesh Gundu Rao, Raghavendra Hitnal, BB Chimmanakatti, H C Mahadevappa and H S Mahadeva Prasad also attended the meeting.
Over half-a-dozen senior leaders on Thursday claimed that they were contenders for the chief minister post. Besides Siddaramaiah and Mallikarjuna Kharge who have emerged front runners, senior leaders such as G Parameshwara, Deshpande, Shivakumar, T B Jayachandra and Shivashankarappa declared that they are in the race and that they are capable of taking up the chief minister post.

Addressing a press conference, Deshpande said he was one of the senior most Congressman and his supporters want him to occupy the top post. He, however, said said he was not competing with Siddaramaiah, Parameshwara or other chief minister aspirants as it was not the Congress culture.

“I am only banking on my experience as a party man. I have also served as a minister apart from discharging responsibilities given to me by the party at various levels,” he said.

On who should get the credit for the party’s victory, Deshpande said the victory for the Congress was the result of combined efforts of all leaders and party workers. “I am not saying Siddaramaiah and Parameshwara have not worked hard. However, foundation for the Congress victory was laid after the party took out a padayatra from Bangalore to Bellary against illegal mining.” Deshpande was the KPCC chief then.

Shivakumar claimed he can take both seniors and young leaders together.

“If the party gives an opportunity, I will contest the election for the post of chief minister in the legislature party meeting convened on Friday. Moreover, I am senior enough in the party to take up the responsibility,” he added.

Jayachandra was in Delhi on Thursday to lobby with the party high command. Deshpande who had plans to go to Delhi, cancelled his visit as he had to attend the CLP meeting on Friday.

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