Congress banks on veterans in Karnataka


Bangalore : The Congress is banking on party veterans in Karnataka to take on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls, in spite of young party general secretary Rahul Gandhi preferring a greater role of youth in the grand old party.

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Two former chief ministers, two state party unit presidents, a former central government minister, all in their late sixties or early seventies, have been nominated for the polls to be held in two phases – April 23 and April 30.

The party has named candidates for 22 of the state’s 28 seats. The two former chief ministers in the list, released late Saturday in New Delhi, are S. Bangarappa who is seeking re-election from Shimoga and N. Dharam Singh from Bidar.

M. Mallikarjun Kharge and B. Janardhana Poojary, the two former presidents of the Congress’ state unit of Congress will contest from Gulbarga and Dakshina Kannada, respectively.

C.K. Jaffer Sharief, a former railways minister, has been given Bangalore North though he had been seeking Bangalore central seat which has gone to H.T. Sangliana, a former Bangalore city police commissioner.

Sangliana, contesting on a BJP ticket, defeated Sharief in the 2004 Lok Sabha poll. However, he split with the BJP and voted in favour of the trust vote sought last year by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The Congress is returning the favour by preferring him to Sharief for the Bangalore Central seat.

The lone woman in the list is Tejaswini Gowda, who scored an upset win over former prime minister and Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) president H.D. Deve Gowda in the Kanakapura Lok Sabha seat in the 2004 polls. Kanakapura has now become Bangalore Rural, after the redrawing of constituencies.

This time also she will face stiff competition but from Deve Gowda’s son and former chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy who is seeking to enter Lok Sabha for the second time.

Kumaraswamy had won the Kanakapura seat in the 1996 polls but lost in 1998. He now represents Ramanagara assembly constituency in the state legislature. Ramangara is part of the Bangalore Rural Lok Sabha constituency.

Another former Bangalore city police commissioner P. Kodandaramaiah also got a ticket – from Tumkur. He is a close associate of former deputy chief minister Siddaramaiah, a popular backward class leader, who was in JD-S but crossed over to Congress on the grounds Deve Gowda was only interested in promoting his own family members.

There is interest in the Congress’ second list about whether two other former chief ministers S.M. Krishna and Veerappa Moily, will also be nominated.

Krishna is said to be interested in Bangalore South, now represented by BJP general secretary H.N. Ananth Kumar. However, Krishna has denied he is interested in contesting as he is a Rajya Sabha member with five and half years more for his six-year term to get over. Moily wants to contest from Chikkaballapur, which is also sought by a former Karantaka legislator.

In the first phase on April 23, voting will take place in 17 constituencies. The remaining eleven constituencies will go to polls April 30.