Cong strategy in Karnataka: 12 MLAs dropped; party-hoppers, migrants, tainted turn lucky

The first list of 218 candidates were announced late last night

Congress' first list of 218 candidates for Karnataka polls were announced late last night Siddaramaiah (extreme left) has secured tickets to all his loyalists from within the party and party-hoppers hoping for a clear majority | Bhanu Prakash Chandra

Winnable factor, politics of nepotism and dynasty politics have reigned supreme in the Congress Party's selection of candidates for the May 12 assembly elections. The first list of 218 candidates announced late on Sunday night reveals that Siddaramaiah, by securing tickets to all his “loyalists” from within the party and party-hoppers, is striving to whip up a clear majority.

Out of the 122 sitting MLAS, 107 sitting MLAs were re-nominated, while 12 were dropped. The party has kept its decision pending in five seats—Shantinagar, Sindhgi, Kittur, Raichur city and Nagatana, while extending support to Darshan Puttannaiah, son of sitting MLA K.S. Puttannaiah (of Swaraj India party), who passed away two months back. The party seems to be dragging its feat on renominating Shantinagar MLA N.A. Haris's fearing a backlash, as Haris's son, Mohammad Nalapad, has been arrested in an assault case.

Speculations over Chief Minister Siddaramaiah contesting from two constituencies—Chamundeshwari and Badami—has also been put to rest after the party declared Dr Devaraj Patil as the Badami candidate. KPCC chief G. Parameshwar has been renominated from Koratagere, a seat he had lost last elections.

The party has, however, favoured the party-hoppers, including seven JDS rebel MLAs. Sitting MLAs Maqbool Bhaagvan (Vijayapura city), Manohar Tahsildar (Hangal), Basavaraj Shivannavar (Byadgi), Jayanna (Kollegal), H.P. Rajesh (Jagalur), N.Y. Gopalakrishna (Bellary rural), K. Shadakshari (Tiptur), B.B. Chimmanakatti (Badami), Srinivas (Tarikere), Shivamurthy Naik (Mayakonda), B.M. Nagaraj (Siruguppa) and Ramakrishnappa (Gulbarga rural) have been denied tickets citing age and health reasons.

While, seven JDS rebel MLAs—Zameer Ahmad Khan (Chamarajpet), N. Cheluvarayaswamy (Nagamangala), H.C. Balakrishna (Magadi), Ramesh Bandisiddegowda (Srirangapatna), Iqbal Ansari (Gangavati), Akhanda Srinivasa Murthy(Pulakeshinagar) and Bhima Nayak (Hagaribommanahalli) who had cross-voted in favour of the Congress candidate in the last two Rajya Sabha elections have been given tickets. Siddaramaiah gaining an upper hand in the selection of candidates is evident as all his loyalists have been given a ticket.

Ironically, the Congress which takes credit for having fought the ruling BJP's corruption and illegal mining in Bellary, has ended up giving tickets to 'migrant' MLAs including those facing corruption charges. The tainted brigade involved in illegal mining—Anand Singh (Hospete MLA) who quit BJP to join Congress, independent MLAs B. Nagendra (Kudligi) and Satish Sail (Karwar), and Bidar South MLA and promoter of NICE company Ashok Kheny (facing land-grabbing charges) getting the tickets has sparked discontent within the party.

Bagalkot MLA H.Y. Meti, who was involved in an alleged sex scandal too has been renominated.

The dynasty politics continues with sons and daughters of senior leaders getting the nod from the party high command. Siddaramaiah's son Yathindra (Varuna), Home Minister Ramalinga Reddy's daughter Soumya Reddy (Jayanagar), Law Minister T.B. Jayachandra's son Santosh (Chikkanayakanahalli), MP K.H. Muniyappa's daughter Roopa Sashidhar (KGF) are the new faces in the poll fray, while the father-son duo Krishnappa (Vijayanagar) and Priya Krishna (Govindarajnagar), Shamanur Shivashankarappa (Davangere South) and S.S. Mallikarujuna (Davangere North) have also been renominated.

As usual the total strength of women candidates did not exceed the 10 per cent mark (of the 224 seats), though it saw Women and Child Development Minister Umashree (Terdal), Cooperation Minisiter Geeta Mahadevaprasad, Mahila Congress chief Laxmi Hebbalkar (Belagavi), former minister Motamma (Mudigere), former mayor G. Padmavathi (Rajajinagar) figure in the list of 15, that also includes widows of sitting MLAs—Keerthana, wife of Rudre Gowda (Belur) and Fathima, wife of Qamarul Islam (Kalburgi North).

The ticket distribution has not altered the caste matrix. While OBCs have bagged the highest with 52 tickets (including 17 Kuruba), the Lingayats (including Reddy Lingayat) have got 48, Scheduled Castes 36, Minorities 20, Scheduled Tribes 17, Brahmin six, while the rest is divided among the smaller communities.

Interestingly, the Congress party, which was hoping to garner the Lingayat votes by backing the Lingayat demand for a separate religion has fielded only 42 candidates from the Veerashaiva Lingayats, despite the community holding sway in around 100 constituencies.

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, who is back in Bengaluru after four-day-long deliberations over candidate selection at Delhi said, “Winnability is the criterion for the selection, while feedback from party workers and district in-charge secretaries too has played a role.”