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Karnataka: Mayawati spoils Mallikarjun Kharge’s chances
While the BJP has had no difficulty in projecting its chief ministerial candidate, the Congress party has too many aspirants to contend with. ‘Cross that bridge when you come to it’, it seems to be telling itself, courtesy Mayawati!
POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS in Karnataka have been gathering pace. Mayawati’s recent visit to Bangalore has forced even the established political parties to redefine their poll strategy for obvious reasons. Unlike other parties, which tend to exploit certain communities or certain sections of the society, Mayawati typically tried to carry all, irrespective of their religion or community or caste, to capture power in Karnataka. This has proved to be a setback for some political parties, which usually gravitate towards certain communities or certain strata of society for their electoral success. 
Well, the Congress has set the ball rolling by deciding to requisition the services of the former chief minister of Karnataka and the present Governor of Maharashtra, SM Krishna. What is more, he has been reportedly told that in the event of the party emerging victorious, he will be its chief ministerial choice. The arrangement will be formalised with Krishna taking over the overall leadership of the Karnataka unit of the Congress party in February, hardly a week from now. A co-ordination committee will be constituted for the purpose of which he will be the chairman. Such an arrangement will not, it is hoped, rub Mallikarjun Kharge the wrong way. Kharge is a senior Dalit leader of the party and is also its pradesh congress committee. He is an aspirant for the CM’s post. But this Karnataka Dalit is going to miss the bus, thanks to the ambitions of his fellow Dalit from UP, Mayawati. What an irony! The Congress cannot ignore the upper castes lest they should switch their allegiance to Mayawati, lock, stock and barrel, as they did in UP. 
Another leader of the backward classes and Deve Gowda’s bete noire, the former deputy chief minister Siddaramaiah, who joined the Congress party a year ago, is also an aspirant for the CM’s post. Mayawati’s Karnataka entry has dampened Siddaramaiah’s ambition. What carrot the Congress will offer? As of now, the Congress is inclined to take up this issue only after Krishna re-enters Karnataka politics. Until then Siddaramaiah has to remain in political wilderness. 
Incidentally, leaders, including the eight former MLAs who have identified with Siddaramaiah, are to be formally inducted into the Congress party on January 27 in Bangalore. Senior Congress leader in charge of Karnataka, Prithviraj Chavan and top state Congress leaders will be present on the occasion. This should have taken place in New Delhi on Dec 25, 2007 in the presence of AICC President Sonia Gandhi. Following the latter’s hospitalisation the event had to be postponed. 
Fortunately, the BJP faces no such problems. And it is making no secret of it. It has already projected Yediurappa as its chief ministerial candidate. The dilemma of the Congress party has warmed the cockles of the BJP’s heart. Ridiculing the Congress party’s decision to bring back SM Krishna to state politics, BJP senior leader M Venkaiah Naidu said, “Nobody can save the Congress from defeat in the coming assembly elections. Congress is a sinking ship. Neither Ram (Siddaramaiah) nor Krishna (SM Krishna) can prevent it from sinking. In fact, Krishna’s entry will only add to the confusion in the Congress”. 
Naidu challenged the Congress party to name its leader for the polls. He also had a dig at MP Prakash, the No 2 in the erstwhile Kumaraswamy government. When queried on Prakash joining the Congress party, Naidu remarked, “If somebody wants to step into the sinking ship, I can only say ‘all the best’.” 
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