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Ahead of the 2023 Karnataka polls, Congress aspirants make a beeline for seats currently not held by party

Despite public displays of unity, the most numbers of nominations are from the loyalists of the Shivakumar and the Siddaramaiah factions of the state unit, which are at loggerheads.

Congress leaders Siddaramaiah, D.K. Shivakumar and others in Bengaluru, Nov. 19, 2022. (PTI)

At the end of the process of applications to contest for the 2023 Karnataka Assembly polls on Congress tickets, which the party began early, insiders have revealed that on seats where senior party leaders and sitting MLAs have filed applications, there are no competing aspirants. Instead, the most number of applications have come for seats where the Congress currently has no representation in the Assembly, especially in north Karnataka.

A quick analysis of the 1,350 applications received by the Congress for contesting the polls for 224 Assembly constituencies in the state next year – following the end of the last date for applications on November 21 – has revealed that all sitting MLAs and senior leaders of the party have filed applications, according to Congress sources familiar with the application process.

Besides Rs 5,000 as the price of each application form, the party charged a fee of Rs 2 lakh for filing of applications by candidates from the general category and Rs 1 lakh for candidates from the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe categories. The party has netted an amount in the range of Rs 20 crores from the application exercise.

A maximum number of applications have been received for the Bijapur City seat in north Karnataka – currently represented by the maverick BJP MLA Basanagouda Patil Yatnal, where as many as 27 applicants have sought the ticket. There is also a high number of applicants for the Aurad seat in the Bidar region of Karnataka – 25 – which is reserved for SC candidates, and currently represented now by Prabhu Chavan, Minister for Animal Husbandry in the BJP government, who piloted an anti-cow slaughter bill.

In Karnataka CM Basavaraj Bommai’s Shiggaon constituency in Haveri, as many as 15 Congress applicants are vying to contest the polls next year. There are 16 applicants in the fray in the constituencies of Mandya, Raichur and Harapanahalli, and 15 each for Ballari City and Chitradurga.

In the strongholds of Congress stalwarts like the state KPCC chief D K Shivakumar and senior sitting MLAs like Ramalinga Reddy and K J George, there ate no competing applications filed, Congress sources said.

In the Badami constituency in Bagalkot, from where former Karnataka CM and senior Congress leader Siddaramaiah won the polls in 2018, applications have been filed by five candidates, including the son of former MLA B B Chimankatti. In 2018, Chimankatti allowed Siddaramaiah to contest from the Badami seat, following Siddaramaiah’s concerns over losing the Chamundeshwari seat in the Mysuru region he had represented earlier.

For the Chamundeshwari seat, there are 10 Congress applicants. Meanwhile, Siddaramaiah hasn’t filed an application to contest the polls from either seat, though he has indicated he would like to fight from either Varuna or Kolar, with the decision left to the party High Command.

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Siddaramaiah’s son Yathindra (Photo via ANI)

Siddaramaiah’s son Yathindra has filed an application for the Varuna seat in the Mysuru region, while the former home minister Ramalinga Reddy and his daughter Sowmya Reddy are aspirants in Bengaluru.

Among those who have filed their applications so far is 93-year-old Congress MLA from Davangere Shamanur Shivashankarappa and 27-year-old spokesperson Aishwarya Mahadev, who is aspiring for a ticket in the Mysuru region. The duo are the oldest and the youngest applicants, Congress sources said.

93-year-old Congress MLA from Davangere Shamanur Shivashankarappa and 27-year-old spokesperson Aishwarya Mahadev.

While several senior leaders hadn’t filed applications till November 15, the lacuna was covered, following the extension of the last date for applications to November 21 by the KPCC.

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Congress sources said applications received by the party will be compared with surveys on each seat based on the popularity of the local leaders, to arrive at the final selection. An internal survey of the Congress party has revealed that it could win as many as 130 seats in 2023, a party leader said.

“The plan is to identify candidates in at least 150 seats and to get them to start work immediately in their constituencies,” Congress sources said. Apparently, Congress fixed a cost for application forms and for filing these, to collect funds for the construction of a new party building and for the party’s advertisements ahead of the state Assembly polls.

“This will help us assess the ground situation in each of the 224 constituencies and tailor the party outreach on that basis by taking into confidence the dominant leaders in a constituency,” sources said

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In some seats, the applications have been filed by leaders allied to various factions in the Congress party – chiefly the Shivakumar and the Siddaramaiah factions – which are considered to be at loggerheads, despite public displays of unity.

First published on: 26-11-2022 at 11:56 IST
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