The Congress in Karnataka is in firefighting mode after releasing two lists of candidates for the 10 May Assembly elections.
Voices of rebellion are getting louder as several poll hopefuls have been left without party tickets. The Congress is now trying to pacify them to nip the possibility of them entering the fray as independents.
The more-than-a-century-old party has not released its final list of candidates for the remaining 58 seats. It is waiting for the BJP, the main rival, to come out with its first list of candidates.
The Congress released its first list of candidates for 124 Assembly seats on 24 March and the second list for 42 seats on 6 April.
The party is now facing dissent from within in several Assembly seats, as a significant number of hopefuls were denied tickets.
Threat of rebel candidates
After the second list was released, many aspirants quit the party and announced that they would contest either as candidates of some other political party or as independents.
In a few seats, the aspirants have threatened to quit the party and join hands with the rivals.
The supporters of such aspirants also staged protests in front of the state party head office in Bengaluru recently.
Senior politician YSV Datta from Kadur, Raghu Achar from Chitradurga, and Nagaraj Chabbi from Kalghatgi are among the leaders who have publicly voiced dissent at the party high command’s decision against fielding them.
Dissent has also been reported in Gokak, Gangavathi, Mandya, Tumakuru, Channagiri, Kittur, Shirahatti, and many other Assembly seats across the state.
YSV Datta to contest as independent
Senior politician Datta came down heavily on the Congress for not giving him a ticket in the Kadur Assembly segment.
He announced his decision to quit the party and contest as an independent from the same seat.
Datta had ended his long association with JD(S) and pledged allegiance to Congress in December 2022. He switched loyalty to the grand-old-party after he was promised a party ticket.
Surprisingly, the Congress decided to field KS Anand in Kadur, upsetting Datta. He was defeated in the segment in the 2018 Assembly polls.
Datta met his supporters in Kadur and announced his decision to contest as an independent candidate. His presence in the fray would affect the prospects of the Congress in Kadur.
“I don’t have crores of rupees to win the hearts of voters in this election. So, I am spreading a towel before my followers and seeking support in this poll,” Datta told reporters on Sunday, 9 April.
“It was Congress Legislative Party leader Siddaramaiah who invited me to the party with the promise of fielding me. I never expected that party would deny me a ticket. The Congress has done injustice to me,” he said.
“I have thousands of supporters in this segment. I am confident that they would ensure my victory. The towel will be my symbol,” Datta announced.
Achar to join JD(S)
Former MLC Raghu Achar was hoping to contest from Chitradurga. The Congress gave the ticket to KC Veerendra, who contested previous elections as a JD(S) candidate.
This irked Achar, who said that he would join the JD(S) soon. The JD(S) has not yet announced the ticket for the Chitradurga seat. Achar is likely to be the face of JD(S) in the segment.
“Siddaramaiah asked me not to contest for the post of MLC and instead contest the MLA poll from Chitradurga. Now, when I was preparing for the polls, they slashed my throat,” Achar lamented.
“They have denied me a ticket because the votes from my caste are not significant in this seat,” he lashed out at the Congress.
“The voters will teach them a memorable lesson. The Congress will lose all the seats and won’t come to power in Karnataka,” he cursed the grand-old party.
After the Congress nominated former minister Santosh Lad in Kalghatagi, Nagaraj Chabbi quit the party and joined the BJP in Hubballi on Sunday.
Chitradurga’s Molkalmuru seat aspirant Yogesh Babu expressed dissent over the party’s high command giving a ticket to former BJP MLA NY Gopalkrishna, who represented the seat four times.
Gopalkrishna won Kudalgi on a BJP ticket in 2018. He recently quit the party and pledged his allegiance to the Congress.
Politics is about sharing: KPCC president
Ever since the Congress announced the list of candidates, many aspirants, who missed the ticket, have threatened to rebel against the party.
Meanwhile, KPCC president DK Shivakumar is confident of resolving the dissent ahead of the polls.
On the disgruntled leaders threatening to rebel against the party, Shivakumar told reporters: “Desire is natural in politics. In this case, we cannot give everyone a chance. Politics is about sharing power and cooperation. The power will be shared once the government assumes office.”
“For this reason, we are asking everyone to remain calm. Dissent is natural when the aspirants fail to get a ticket. The winning criteria are important in our party. With that view, we have made some decisions. We are trying to pacify some people,” Shivakumar said.
The KPCC president also pointed out BJP leaders, who have quit the saffron campy and pledged allegiance to either Congress or other parties.
“Even before the BJP announced its candidates, many people quit the party. There is rebellion in every party. Many leaders from the other parties, mainly the BJP will join the Congress in the coming days,” Shivakumar hinted that several BJP leaders are in talks with him.
However, he did not identify the leaders.