By V.S. Karnic, Bangalore, Jan 18 IANS | 7 months ago

With the Congress plenary deciding that Rahul Gandhi will lead the party campaign in the elections, there is renewed clamour in Karnataka that he contest the polls from the state.Speculation that Rahul Gandhi seems to be interested in entering the next Lok Sabha from Karnataka started in a section of the party's state unit about three months ago. However, no one gave any reason for starting such talk when there was no indication from Rahul Gandhi to that effect - for instance, frequent visits to the state.


In fact, talk that Rahul Gandhi may contest from Karnataka started much before the Aam Admi Party (AAP) announced, after its stunning debut in the Delhi assembly polls, that it will field a candidate against him in the Gandhi family stronghold of Amethi in Uttar Pradesh.

There were frequent meetings, though, with state party leaders in New Delhi till last May about the strategy and candidates for the Karnataka assembly polls, which the Congress won by dethroning the Bharatiya Janata Party, and later mostly about ministry formation.

The party has not completed the ministry-making exercise as three vacancies still exist. Karnataka can have a 34-member ministry, including the chief minister.

Several state Congress leaders have been aiding the speculation with frequent comments that they would be happy to see Rahul Gandhi contesting the Lok Sabha polls from Karnataka as Indira Gandhi had won from Chikmagalur in 1978 after she lost in Rai Bareli in Uttar Pradesh and the party was routed in 1977. Also, Sonia Gandhi bagged the Bellary seat in the 1999 elections. She, however, retained the Amethi seat which too she had won.

Such comments led to further speculation about the possible constituencies Rahul Gandhi could contest from or was supposedly interested in fighting from.

Two constituencies are being mentioned - Chikmagalur which now is actually Chikmagalur-Udupi and Mysore-Kodagu. Interestingly, both Chikmagalur and Kodagu districts are known for their coffee estates. Mysore is known as a city of palaces while Udupi is a famous pilgrimage centre for its temple of Hindu god Krishna.

Both the seats are now held by Congressmen - K. Jayaprakash Hegde represents Chikmagalur-Udupi and A. H. Vishwanath holds the Mysore-Kodagu seat.

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and Vishwanath on Wednesday lent their voice to the speculation, telling reporters that Rahul Gandhi can contest from anywhere in the country and he supports the idea of him fighting the Lok Sabha polls from Karnataka.

The state Congress leaders' enthusiasm apparently stems from the expectation that Rahul Gandhi contesting from the state will brighten the party's chances of bagging the maximum number out of the 28 Lok Sabha seats from the state, particularly after the party returned to power in Karnataka on its own in last May's assembly polls after nine years.

Despite widespread belief that the national mood is against the Congress because of various corruption scandals of the United Progressive Alliance it leads, the state party leaders are aiming to win at least 20 seats compared to just six in the 2009 elections.

The tally has gone up to eight after two wins in the bypolls last August from Bangalore Rural and Mandya, around 80 km from here, constituencies considered as the strongholds of Janata Dal-Secular of former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda.

With the Congress culture of leaving the final decision on crucial matters to the party president, it is now over to Sonia Gandhi to fulfill the wishes of the party's Karnataka unit.

(V.S. Karnic can be contacted at vs.karnic@ians.in)

(Posted on 18-01-2014)


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