The Congress party, which recently held a meeting of its Central Election Committee in New Delhi to firm up candidates for about 100 Lok Sabha seats across the country, has decided to adopt a wait-and-watch strategy for over a dozen seats in Karnataka.
While the party has more or less decided on 12 candidates, it will field the rest strategically, depending on the opposition’s moves, Congress sources in Karnataka said.
The party leadership is contemplating fielding some sitting ministers and office bearers in the state government in constituencies where three pronged fights between the Congress, BJP and JDS are likely, sources said.
Union ministers Veerappa Moily, Mallikarjun Kharge, K H Muniyappa, veteran Congressman Dharam Singh, former ministers H Vishwanath, Jayaprakash Hegde and R Dhruvanarayan have almost been finalised as candidates from Chikaballapur, Gulbarga, Kolar, Bidar, Mysore, Udupi Chikamagalur and Chamarajnagar, respectively.
“The party would also not like to disturb two young MPs elected in the course of the parliamentary by-elections last year from Mandya and Bangalore Rural — Ramya and D K Suresh,” sources said.
The candidature of former chief justice of the Orissa High Court N Y Hanumanthappa, who lost the Bellary polls in 2009, UIDAI chairman and former Infosys CEO Nandan Nilekani from Bangalore South, and first-timer Lakshmi Hebbalkar from Belgaum has also been decided, sources said.
“It has also been made clear that the Congress will field a minority community member — Jaffer Sharief, Rizwan Arshad or H T Sangliana — in the Bangalore Central constituency,” sources said.
Although two of the 28 seats — Bangalore North and Dakshina Kannada — have been identified by the Congress leadership for selection of candidates through primaries, the proposal may be shelved on the advice of the local Congress leaders, sources said.
The primaries, initially scheduled for the third week of February, have now been postponed to the second week of March, Congress leaders said.
The Congress state leadership has asked the AICC to rethink a proposal to conduct a primary for the Dakshina Kannada seat in particular, and instead field veteran Congressman Janardhan Poojary.
Ministers who could be nudged into the poll fray are Agriculture Minister and Vokkaliga leader Krishna Byre Gowda from Bangalore North, Social Welfare Minister and torch bearer for the Scheduled Castes in the Congress government H Anjaneya from Chitradurga, and Sugar Minister Prakash Hukkeri from Chikkodi.
With the formidable former CM B S Yeddyurappa likely to be the BJP candidate from Shimoga, the Congress is toying with the idea of fielding veteran socialist from Shimoga and speaker of the Assembly Kagodu Thimappa in the constituency, though former KPCC general secretary Manjunath Bhandary is also tipped to contest.
Other seats the Congress is playing a wait-and-watch game with include Bagalkot, Bijapur, Haveri, Dharwad in the Lingayat dominated Mumbai Karnataka region — where Yeddyurappa’s return to BJP has altered equations in favour of that party — and Raichur and Koppal in the backward Hyderabad Karnataka region.
The party is also undecided on the candidate who will take on former PM H D Deve Gowda of the JDS in Hassan, and Ananth Kumar Hegde, the four-time BJP MP from the Uttar Kannada constituency.