Congress seeks to strike caste balance in Karnataka poll

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New Delhi, Apr 10 (UNI) The Congress seems to be focussed on striking a perfect balance between different communities in Karnataka as the process of selection of candidates for the next month's assembly election has been set in motion at the state and central level.

The party's new gameplan is evident from the efforts it has been making to bring in more leaders from dominant caste groups whose behaviour is crucial for its victory in the elections.

Party sources indicated that they had identified Lingayat as a dominant votebase in the state for being wooed to its side. This community was predominant in the Northern part of the state with a state-wide presence of 18 per cent of the population.

Though the Congress leaders are aware of the difficulty in wooing the Lingayats because of their known leanings towards the BJP, especially in the context of the BJP's Chief Ministerial candidate B S Yediyurappa being one from the same commuity, it has decided not to spare any effort in the task.

The Congress has managed to bring on its side a prominant Lingayat leader and former Deputy Chief Minister M P Prakash. Mr Prakash joined the party a year ago in the wake of the collapse of the H D Kumaraswamy government due to problems with the BJP on the issue of sharing of power.

A senior AICC leader said today that prominant Lingayat leaders like S B Sidnal had recently joined the party.

There are indications that the Congress would give a fair share of seats to candidates from the Lingayat community this time to make a dent into the vote base of the community to deny power to the BJP in Karnataka.

"The Congress Party can return to power only if the Lingayat community which has a strong presence in the state is given due prominence in the party," Lingayat leader Gurupaddapa Nagamarapalli said here.

The other gameplan of the Congress is to woo as many leaders from the Janata Dal (Secular) led by former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda. The Janata Dal (S) is predominant in the southern part of the state.

In order to widen its caste coalition, the Congress has recently admitted former Union Ministers C M Ibrahim, D K Taradevi Sidhartha and former state minister Jayaprakash Hegde.

The delimitation of constituencies has created headache for the Congress also.

Though the Central leadership of the Party wants to eliminate at least 30 per cent of sitting MLAs, the task seems to be daunting because of the delimited constituencies and the new focus on caste balancing.

UNI SH MSJ HT1527

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