Insiders say that the two heavyweights disagreed on almost every aspect of the upcoming Karnataka polls.

Cong screening committee talks inconclusive Siddaramaiah Kharge quibble over candidates
Karnataka Elections Karnataka 2018 Saturday, April 14, 2018 - 12:31

On Friday, the central selection committee of the Congress met in New Delhi to deliberate on its candidate lists in the upcoming Assembly polls in Karnataka. Despite hours of talks, the meeting was inconclusive as the heavyweights reportedly clashed over whose supporters should get tickets.

Congress insiders say that during the two rounds of talks, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, MP Mallikarjuna Kharge, veteran Congressman Veerappa Moily and Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee President Dr G Parameshwara could not reach a consensus over who should be fielded.

“Both rounds of talks failed as there were differences about new candidates being given tickets and about certain sitting MLAs. The high command then asked the screening committee’s head Madhusudan Mistry to hold a meeting later on Friday night and resolve the differences between the leaders,” a source said.

On Saturday, the screening committee met once again and talks are currently on to finalise the first list of candidates.

The first round of meetings, chaired by Congress President Rahul Gandhi, began at 10.45 am. The committee also comprised Mistry, Karnataka election in-charge KC Venugopal, Ambika Soni and Girija Vyas.

Sources say that a miffed Kharge walked out of the meeting at 1 pm, after a heated argument between him, Siddaramaiah and Parameshwara. Rahul Gandhi intervened and brought the situation under control, sources added.

“The meeting reconvened at 5 pm. Sonia Gandhi was also present and, despite several rounds of talks, she too could not appease the leaders and sort out the problem,” the source said.

"The meeting was inconclusive and will continue on Saturday. The central leadership has asked the state leaders to resolve the issue tonight and place the list before the central election committee. The CEC will meet on Saturday and is likely to announce the first list by the evening," Ambika Soni told the media.

Congress insiders say that the major differences were about tickets being offered to new entrants, and whether or not to offer tickets to the seven Janata Dal (Secular) rebel MLAs.

“Siddaramaiah had suggested that all sitting MLAs be given tickets and Parameshwara wanted all new entrants to be given tickets. Kharge and Moily wanted the tickets to be given to party loyalists. They were of the opinion that newcomers have lower chances of winning,” a Congress functionary said.

Sources say that the meeting witnessed a face-off between Siddaramaiah and Kharge, where the two leaders reportedly disagreed on almost every aspect.

“Kharge was of the opinion that the candidates of his choice would do well in North Karnataka as Gulbarga is his bastion. Siddaramaiah was opposed to this. This was mostly because of Siddaramaiah wanting to contest from two constituencies. One in Mysuru and one in North Karnataka. Kharge and Moily did not agree to this,” the source said.

Insiders say that several leaders in the committee agreed with Kharge and said that it would set a bad example if Siddaramaiah contested from two constituencies – Chamundeshwari in Mysuru district and Badami in Bagalakote.

Kharge also reportedly opposed Siddaramaiah’s choice for Bidar – Ashok Kheny, the businessman-turned-politician, who had promised to make Bidar “another Singapore”.

“Kheny has lost credibility in Bidar. Earlier this year, his constituents had openly shown their displeasure when he went there for a visit. He has the habit of making false promises. When he contested in 2013, he had promised to make Bidar a second Singapore. No one believed it even back then. Now the people do not trust him, which is why Kharge is opposed to his candidature,” the source added.

Kharge and Parameshwara are said to have opposed Shantinagar MLA NA Haris’ candidature as well. A week ago, another ticket aspirant, Lakshmi Venkatesh, had met Parameshwara and threatened to quit the party if Haris was given the ticket.