The candidature of veteran Congressman and former leader of the opposition in the 16th Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, 77, has been approved by the Congress leadership to contest a Rajya Sabha seat from Karnataka in polls to be held on June 19.
Kharge, a Dalit leader and former minister who had been undefeated in polls since 1972, did not make it to the Lok Sabha in 2019 after he was defeated in his home region of Kalaburagi by BJP newcomes Umesh Jadhav in the parliament polls.
“The Congress president Smt Sonia Gandhi approved the candidature of Shri Mallikarjun Kharge as Congress candidate for the ensuing biennial elections to the Rajya Sabha from Karnataka,” Congress general secretary Mukul Wasnik said in a press release on Friday.
Kharge who had maintained a low profile since the loss in the Lok Sabha polls recently addressed a press conference where he called into question the BJP government at the centre on its handling of distressed migrants after imposition of the Covid 19 lockdown.
Legislators from the Karnataka assembly are due to elect four new members to the Rajya Sabha on June 19 – on account of the retirement of Prabhakar Kore (BJP), M V Rajeev Gowda and B K Hariprasad of the Congress, and real estate businessman Kupendra Reddy of the JDS.
The Congress which was in a position to elect two candidates to the Rajya Sabha in 2014 on account of the presence of its government in the state is now in a position to guarantee the election of only of its own candidates on account of its numbers dwindling to 68 following the defeat of the party in the 2018 assembly polls and subsequent defections of MLAs.
Each candidate will require a minimum of 44 votes to be elected to the Rajya Sabha. The Congress is reportedly mulling supporting the candidature of former prime minister H D Deve Gowda by allocating its spare votes to the JDS veteran who lost the 2018 Lok Sabha polls. The JDS which has 34 seats is not in a position to put up a candidate without support from others.
“All our MLAs are insistent that Devegowda should contest the Rajya Sabha polls. Devegowda is yet to indicate whether he will contest or not. Our MLAs feel that given his experience and the situation in the country it is appropriate that Devegowda should be in the RS. No decision has been taken yet,” JDS leader, former CM, and Devegowda’s son, H D Kumaraswamy said.
The Karnataka Congress president designate D K Shivakumar is reported to be in favor of supporting Devegowda as a tactic to help the party gain political currency in south Karnataka which is dominated by the Vokkaliga community to which Devegowda belongs.
The retiring Congress candidates M V Rajeev Gowda, B K Hariprasad and former MP Mudde Hanume Gowda who made way for Devegowda to contest the 2019 Lok Sabha polls from the Tumkur seat – as the Congress-JDS coalition candidate are also seeking to contest the polls.
“The Congress has excess votes of around 20 or 25 and similary the BJP will also have excess votes but they cannot elect an additional candidate on their own. Our MLAs are of the view that both parties must not field additional candidates to facilitate the election of Devegowda,” the JDS leader H D Kumaraswamy said.
The JDS is likely to encounter resistance to its plans by factions in the Congress opposed to allying with Devegowda.
The ruling BJP in Karnataka is in a position to easily win two of the seats on account of the party having 116 members in the legislative assembly.
The BJP’s candidates are still unclear with the retiring educationist and Belagavi Lingayat leader Prabhakar Kore has strong traction with the party leadership there are also rebels like the Katti brothers of Belagavi – one of whom is in contention for an RS poll nomination and another for a cabinet post – are exerting pressure on CM Yediyurappa for nomination.
The BJP is also reportedly considering a few leaders within the party fold for candidature on account of their long service as well as a few prominent citizens as RS candidates.
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