THE RULING Congress in Karnataka on Sunday changed candidates in six constituencies and officially announced the candidature of Chief Minister Siddaramaiah from a second constituency — Badami — for the May 12 Assembly polls.
The AICC announced the names of candidates for five of the 224 constituencies where it had not announced candidates and changed candidates in six constituencies from those named its first list announced on April 15.
Sitting MLA from Shanthinagar in central Bengaluru N A Harris, who has been under a cloud of controversy after his eldest son was arrested by Bengaluru police last month for assaulting a youth in a pub, has been nominated again to contest the seat despite objections from civil society members.
Putting an end to speculation over whether Siddaramaiah would contest a second seat — apart from Chamundeshwari in his home district of Mysuru — the Congress declared him as the candidate for the Badami constituency in Bagalkot in north Karnataka.
The seat is considered a safer bet for the chief minister than Chamundeshwari where all his rivals are aligning to defeat him. The Congress had earlier nominated Devaraj Patil for the Badami seat, which has a large number of voters from Siddaramaiah’s own Kuruba community.
Patil, who is a member of the sizable Lingayat community in Badami, has lost out on the Congress ticket for the second time after being the party’s first choice to contest the seat. In 2013, he was named as the candidate but was dropped after Siddaramaiah intervened on behalf of local Kuruba leader B B Chimankatti, a five-time MLA from the region.
Several local leaders, including Chimankatti, have in recent days indicated that they are in favour of Siddaramaiah contesting the seat. Congress leaders in Bagalkot also claimed that by contesting a seat in north Karnataka, the chief minister would strengthen the party’s prospects in the backward regions in the north of the state. “This is not a change instance. Modi also contested from two seats. Here people are demanding his representation from Badami so he has accepted under pressure. The high command has agreed to it and as per the direction of the high command he is contesting in two places,” said Mallikarjun Kharge, leader of Congress in Lok Sabha.
Among the other constituencies where the Congress changed its candidates is Jagalur (ST seat) where the party had announced the candidature of A L Puspha. But following severe pressure, the party replaced her with H P Rajesh, the sitting MLA.
In Madikeri seat, the party dropped former state public prosecutor H S Chandramouli in the wake of a controversy over his appearance in court on behalf of businessman Mehul Choksi, who is accused of bank frauds along with his nephew Nirav Modi. The party announced the candidature of K P Chandrakala for the seat.
Candidates in Padmanabanagar and Malleswaram constituencies in Bengaluru and Tiptur in Tumkur were also changed.
For the Raichur seat where no candidate had been named, the Congress has gone back to veteran Syed Yasin, who is the son-in-law of veteran Congress leader Jaffer Sharief, who lost the 2013 polls. The Congress has named former minister D B Inamdar as the candidate from Kittur following a threat of dissidence in the party from the former minister in the event of being denied the ticket.
The Congress has not named a candidate for one seat — the Melukote constituency in Mandya region of south Karnataka — since it decided to support Darshan Puttannaiah, son of farmer leader K S Puttanaiah, a Raitha Sangha MLA of the constituency, who died in February.