In a show of strength in the run up to the state assembly elections, Congress in Karnataka is looking to fight for three of the four Rajya Sabha seats due for elections on March 23.
The BJP currently holds two of the seats (Basavaraj Patil Sedam and R Ramakrishna). The other two seats are held by K Rahman Khan of the Congress and independent candidate Rajeev Chandrasekhar, who was elected jointly by the BJP and JD(S).
Each candidate needs 44 votes in the 224-member assembly and the Congress’ intention to contest for three seats leaves no room for the Janata Dal (Secular) to elect their own candidate in the election.
Congress says ‘No’ to Sam Pitroda
Congress is buoyed by its strength in the Karnataka assembly and is also expected to garner the votes of seven JD(S) rebels who helped the Congress win an additional seat in the Rajya Sabha elections in 2016.
While the party has sought time to finalise its three candidates, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has rejected the central leadership’s suggestion of fielding technocrat Sam Pitroda as one of the candidates since he is not a Kannadiga.
According to a source in the Congress, a number of names are under discussion with the party likely to stick to its tried-and-trusted formula of selecting leaders from minorities and backward caste communities.
Among them are Saleem Ahmed, Shamanuru Shivashankarappa and Rani Satish, both former Ministers, and Kailashnath Patil, son of former Chief Minister Veerendra Patil.
Saleem Ahmed who hails from Haveri is likely to be nominated as the party is looking to field a Muslim candidate. A 35-year old Congress veteran, Ahmed has previously been the Chief Whip in the Karnataka Legislative Council and was also the Director General of the Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan, an autonomous organisation under the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports from 2012-2014.
Lingayat leaders Kailashnath Patil and Rani Satish are also being considered by the party in a bid to appease the Lingayat contingent ahead of the state assembly elections. Kailashnath Patil who hails from Gulbarga is the son of former Chief Minister Veerendra Patil while Rani Satish was the Kannada and Culture Minister in the state from 1999 to 2004 in SM Krishna’s cabinet. Satish grew up in Periyapatna Taluk in Mysore and was the Bangalore City Mahila Congress President for 17 years before taking over as the Kannada and Culture Minister.
Meanwhile Shamanuru Shivashankarappa, President of the All India Veerashaiva Mahasabha, the apex body of Veerashaivas is also among the names considered. Shivashankarappa, a veteran Congress leader who hails from Davangere and was previously the Minister for Horticulture and Agro Marketing in the current Congress government is also in the race.
Siddaramaiah is also believed to be angling for P R Channa Reddy, a realtor and close friend. Although Reddy joined the Congress in 2006, he has maintained a low profile. He runs a software firm iPapagari in Bengaluru.
The JD(S) plan
The JD(S) however is hoping to persuade the Congress to field businessman BM Farooq as one of its candidates. Farooq, who was the JD(S) candidate in the last elections to the Rajya Sabha in 2016 was denied a seat after cross-voting by JD(S) MLAs. A JD(S) spokesperson however denied that the party is looking to pulling out of its alliance with Congress in the Bengaluru Bruhat Mahanagara Palike if it does not get to elect a Rajya Sabha nomination.
Rajeev Chandrasekhar again?
The opposition BJP is also undecided over who it will nominate. Retiring member Rajeev Chandrasekhar is one of the aspirants hoping to gain a ticket. Chandrasekhar has been nominated to the Rajya Sabha twice, first in 2006 and then in 2012 as an independent candidate. He got the support of the BJP and JD(S) on both occasions.
He is the vice-chairman of the Kerala unit of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
Chandrasekhar is the founder and chairman of Jupiter Capital Pvt. Ltd., a financial services and investment companies and has invested in numerous media companies including AsiaNet News and Republic TV, in which he is the largest investor.
Another name in the frame is that of Vijay Sankeshwar, owner of the influential Kannada newspaper Vijayavani and logistics firm VRL. Sankeshwar previously owned Vijaya Karnataka until it was sold to The Times Group in 2007 after which he started Vijayavani. He is also a former Member of Parliament having been elected thrice from North Dharwad constituency as a BJP member. Sankeshwar is also a former Member of Parliament from North Dharwad constituency as a BJP member.