Congress leaders go into a huddle to finalise list of candidates

A day after striking the seat-sharing formula with the coalition partner JD(S), Congress leaders on Thursday huddled together at the party office to finalise the list of candidates for 20 Lok Sabha constituencies.

While the Congress is likely to field all incumbent MPs, except in Tumakuru which has gone to the JD(S), the party is in the process of shortlisting candidates for 11 constituencies before the AICC screening on March 16. The party is expected to announce the first list of candidates on March 17 or 18, sources said. The Congress had sent 10 MPs from the State to the 16th Lok Sabha.

On Thursday, Congress Legislature Party leader Siddaramaiah and KPCC president Dinesh Gundu Rao, KPCC campaign committee chief H.K. Patil, Minister D.K. Shivakumar and several other leaders held meetings with legislators from various districts to identify candidates for 11 constituencies, including Bengaluru South.

Sources told The Hindu that only KPCC working president Eshwar Khandre, MLA, would be allowed to contest the election from Bidar constituency. He is expected to contest against Bhagwant Khuba of the BJP who defeated the former Chief Minister late N. Dharam Singh.

The former MLA Ramalinga Reddy has declined to contest from Bengaluru South, saying that he is not interested in contesting parliamentary polls.

Congress MLA and former Minister Ramesh Jarkiholi skipped the meeting called for discussion of candidates for Belagavi constituency. It is being speculated that Mr. Jarkiholi will quit the Congress and join the BJP and contest against the incumbent Congress MP, Prakash Hukkeri, in Chikkodi.

Jarkiholi factor

However, Mr. Jarkiholi’s loyalist, Athani MLA Mahesh Kumtahalli, who was among the four “rebels”, attended the meeting. Forest Minister Satish Jarkiholi, MLAs Ganesh Hukkeri, Laxmi Hebbalkar, Anjali Nimbalkar, and Mr. Hukkeri, attended the meeting.

Meanwhile, a section of the Congress is said to be against renominating M. Veerappa Moily and K.H. Muniyappa for Chickballapur and Kolar, respectively, citing anti-incumbency factors against them.

In the case of Tumakuru, local leaders of the district have opposed conceding the Congress seat to the JD(S). The former MLA K.N. Rajanna has threatened to contest as a rebel Congress candidate. S.P. Mudduhanume Gowda, Tumakuru MP, is expected to announce his stance on the issue on Friday.

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