In race for top Karnataka prize,two men of varying styles

As the dust settles on the Karnataka elections,Wednesday's 121-seat Congress win in the 224-member Assembly translates to an unfettered Congress rule in the state.

Written by Saritha Rai | Bangalore | Published: May 10, 2013 1:34:35 am

As the dust settles on the Karnataka elections,Wednesday’s 121-seat Congress win in the 224-member Assembly translates to an unfettered Congress rule in the state. The next act of the political theatre,with several state leaders jostling for chief ministership,is turning out to be infinitely more suspenseful.

The two frontrunners,Siddaramaiah and Mallikarjun Kharge,are men of contrasting styles. Siddaramaiah,a backward class leader who won from his Varuna constituency in southern Mysore is often frank and,appears somewhat inexperienced in the ways of the Congress. Kharge,a Dalit leader from the northern Gulbarga district,is a veteran of 10 election victories and the Union Labour Minister.

Siddaramaiah,64,has been deputy chief minister twice and is well-regarded for his administration skills and command over the bureaucracy. Kharge,70,has missed the chief ministership twice. Both are extremely ambitious,and after their earlier near-misses,cannot afford this real chance to go by.

“I think it will be my turn this time,” Siddaramaiah forthrightly told The Indian Express in a phone interview. “I am hoping the legislators will support me.” While many find his candour refreshing,Siddaramaiah’s repeated assertions that he is a chief ministerial candidate may not exactly be playing by the Congress’ rulebook. He is still a little raw as far as interacting with the media is concerned. Confronted by TVcameras on Wednesday,he blurted out: “I thank Sonia Gandhiji,Rahul Gandhiji,Manmohan Gandhiji.”

Kharge is no media veteran either but his long stint in the Congress has made him well-versed in the party’s ways. A nine-time Assembly seat winner,he resigned on the party’s directions to contest and win the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. In Delhi,he was rewarded with a ministership. He barely conceals his desire to be the CM,but is more skillful than Siddaramaiah: “The choice of CM is up to the high command. Our fate is written by the high command,the high command is our Brahma.”

The Congress is sending observers to Bangalore to gauge its MLAs’ mood. But ultimately,it could well disregard the popular mood and select an ‘outsider’ — Petroleum Minister Veerappa Moily or D K Shivakumar,a loyalist of former CM S M Krishna.

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