With AICC Karnataka in-charge KC Venugopal conducting consultations with MLAs and party members in the state, all eyes are on the race for the top party spot in the state.
While Siddaramaiah in all likelihood will continue to remain the partyâ€™s Chief Ministerial candidate for the 2018 Assembly elections, how the rest of the candidates list may play out, will depend on who will occupy the post of the KPCC president. Not surprisingly, there are a number of frontrunners representing key constituencies of the party, who have thrown their hat into the race.
Sources within the party say that a key factor in the choice of Party president is the caste calculus with which the Congress approaches the next election.
Thus, one of the key names on the table is current leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge. While Kharge himself is learnt not to have expressed eagerness to be named the KPCC president, the party High Command is keen on having the veteran leader play a major role in the upcoming elections. As one of the tallest Dalit leaders from the state, Kharge is seen as a strong support for Siddaramaiahâ€™s campaign.
Khargeâ€™s appointment would also continue the Congressâ€™s alignment of posts according to the AHINDA (minorities, backward classes and Dalits) alignment of the party, with Home Minister and current president being replaced by another Dalit leader. It is also for this reason that former Minister of State for Railways, KH Muniyappa is in the fray.
However, insiders say, the Congress is yet to make a decision as it is yet to find a suitable replacement for Kharge at the centre.
While Parameswara himself, is seeking an extension as President, a post he has held from 2010, the High Command is reportedly not in favour of this option.
On the other hand, a significant section of the party is arguing for diluting this alignment to draw in more Lingayat and Vokkaliga support. The biggest lobby is believed to have thrown its weight behind Vokkaliga leader and Energy Minister DK Shivakumar, who is currently believed to be the frontrunner in the presidential race.
With SM Krishna having defected to the BJP, Shivakumar now remains the preeminent Vokkaliga leader in the party. However, Shivakumar is also seen to have an overbearing attitude as a leader, and there is an apprehension that he may not be able to work closely and amicably with Siddaramaiah. There are also doubts about how much Shivakumar can do against the JD (S)â€™s strong hold on the Vokkaliga vote.
Another section of the Karnataka Congress is more in favour of taking the fight to BJP state President BS Yeddyurappa with a Lingayat voice leading the KPCC. Currently the BJP has a powerful upper hand with Lingayat voters in the state, and the Congress is keen on breaking this.
There are, therefore, two prominent Lingayat leaders in the race for party President â€“ former IT/BT Minister SR Patil and Water Resources Minister MB Patil.