Karnataka: Crucial Congress meet today to pick CM

Bangalore, May 10: The Congress has set the ball rolling for picking its Chief Minister in Karnataka by convening a meeting of its newly-elected MLAs in Bangalore on Friday with senior leaders Mallikarjuna Kharge and Siddaramaiah being considered front runners in the race for the top post.

The observers are slated to elicit the MLAs' views on the leadership issue in Karnataka where the party was swept to power with comfortable majority of 121 seats in the 224-member Assembly.

"Senior minister AK Antony, AICC general secretary in-charge of the state Madhusudan Mistri, Luizinho Faleiro, who was Karnatataka's screening committee chairman, and Union Minister Jitender Singh are going as AICC observers to Karnataka," party general secretary Janardan Dwivedi told a news agency in New Delhi.

The main fight for the top post is seen between veteran leader and Union Labour and Employment Minister M Mallikarjuna Kharge and Leader of Opposition in the outgoing assembly, Siddaramaiah.

The name of Union Oil Minister M Veerappa Moily is also making the rounds.

The shock defeat of Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee chief G Parameshwara is believed to have weakened his stake for chief ministership, party sources said.

Contenders sought to vigorously push their claims. Siddaramaiah's Bangalore residence was a hub of activity on Thursday as several MLAs loyal to him thronged it.

"The High Command will decide (on the chief ministership)", Siddaramaiah and Kharge said separately.

Siddaramaiah, a former deputy chief minister, joined Congress in 2006 and carries the "outsider tag". He also sought to play the sympathy card by announcing that the May five elections were the last poll of his life.

Kharge is a seasoned politician and had served as Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee President and Leader of Opposition.

More people have thrown their hats in the ring. They include former KPCC President R V Deshapande, former working president of KPCC DK Shivakumar, senior Lingayat leader Shyamanur Shivashankarappa and TB Jayachandra who served as Deputy Floor Leader of Congress in the outgoing Assembly.

"There is nothing wrong in aspiring to be Chief Minister. There is no competition and there are no differences (among the contenders). Everybody will abide the high command decision", Deshpande said.


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