Siddaramaiah struggles to contain dissent in Karnataka Congress after distribution of tickets
File photo of Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. Photograph: (DNA)
The AICC released the first list of 218 candidates on Sunday night for the Karnataka assembly elections, prompting a series of protests across the state. Protests were witnessed in Nelamangala, Siraguppa, Bengaluru, Ballari, Mandya, Chikkamagalur, Udupi, Tumkur, Bagalkote and Haveri. Supporters of ticket aspirants who were left disappointed took to the streets, shouted slogans against Siddaramaiah and burnt tyres as a mark of protest.
In Nelamangala supporters of former minister Anjanamurthy staged a rasta roko after the ticket for the constituency was given to Narayanaswamy. In Siraguppa, over 15 Congress leaders threatened to resign and called for a bandh after sitting MLA Nagraj was denied a ticket. Minister Santhosh Lad was given the ticket instead. While CM Siddaramaiah faced brickbats in some areas, veteran Congress leader Veerappa Moiley faced flak in Karkala as supporters of Uday Kumar Shetty carried out a procession and burnt effigies over ticket denial.
Congress tried to downplay the protests, 'it is a natural expression of a strong opinion. Everyone knows Congress is coming back to power. Therefore party workers have some strong feelings, but that will subside very soon. Out of 224 seats, dissent is hardly in 4-5 places', says Radhakrishna, Congress Spokesperson.
In all Congress handed tickets to 112 sitting MLAs, 10 others were denied the opportunity to contest again. The dissent also stemmed from tickets being handed over to 7 rebel JD(S) leaders who joined the party recently, which includes Zamir Ahmed Khan, Chelluvarayyasamy, Iqbal Ansasi, Ramesh Bendi Siddhagowda, Bheema Nayak, Balakrishna and Akhanda Srinivas Moorthi. Two former BJP MLAs were also handed over tickets -- Anand Singh and B Nagendra -- both of whose names feature in the illegal mining scam which had rocked the previous BJP government.
"Congress is known to defeat their own people. What you are seeing as an outburst shows total indiscipline. It was mild in BJP. In Bagalkote they have given ticket to Methi, but denied ticket to Chimmankatti. Popular leaders have been ignored", says Vaman Acharya, BJP Spokesperson.
But despite facing criticism for his choices, the chief minister himself seems to have not got his way. Though he had expressed interest to contest from two seats, Chamundeshwari and Badami, Siddaramaiah has only managed to get a ticket only from the former contituency. But this list also includes several next generation Congressis, drawing the ire of loyalists. Apart from chief minister's doctor son Yatheendra who got a ticket from Varuna, Home Minister Ramalinga Reddy's daughter Sowmya, Law Minister TB Jayachandra's son Santhosh, Mallikarjun Kharge's son Priyank, Dharam Singh's son Ajay, Krishnappa's son Priya Krishna, KH Muniyappa's daughter Roopa and Shamnur Shivashankarappa's son SS Mallikarjun have all received tickets.
"When Congress was in trouble in Karnataka Priya Krishna, Priyank Kharge and Ajay Singh contested for the party and won. Therefore they are not successors biologically, but are successors of Congress ideology", says Radhakrishna.
The party is yet to name candidates for six more constituencies, among which there is Bengaluru Central's Shantinagar. Congress seems to be rethinking about a ticket for its sitting MLA in the minority-dominated constituency, NA Haris, as his son Nalapad Haris has been embroiled in a pub brawl case and has been behind bars since mid February.