Siddaramaiah seen ahead in Karnataka CM race

SiddaramaiahSiddaramaiah (AP)

The leader of opposition in the outgoing Karnataka Assembly, Siddaramaiah, and Union Minister Mallikarjun Kharge Thursday emerged as the front-runners for the post of chief minister, on the eve of the visit of central observers of the Congress to Bangalore to oversee the election of the legislature party leader, with Siddaramaiah considered to have an edge as he worked for the party's victory locally.

"Somebody who has been CLP leader is generally the natural choice for chief ministership. Besides, he also seems to have the support of a majority of newly-elected MLAs. We will look for a consensus candidate," said a senior AICC functionary. Sources said that there was also apprehension about how Siddaramaiah may react if he is denied the coveted post, which has so far eluded the two-term deputy CM.

Siddaramaiah has also been vocal about his ambition. A day after he had declared himself as a "strong contender", he said in Bangalore Thursday that all 120 MLAs of the Congress are with him. He has also been holding meetings with his supporters and had called on PCC chief G Parameshwar, who fell out of the CM race after losing the election, to solicit his support.

Defence Minister A K Antony, AICC general secretary Madhusudan Mistry, Union Minister Jitendra Singh and Luizinho Faleiro, chairman of the Karnataka screening committee, will go to Bangalore to oversee the CLP meeting. "We are going for consultations. Everything will depend on what the CLP decides," said Mistry when asked about the party's choice for CM.

While Kharge has also thrown his hat in the ring, sources said that the Congress leadership was not convinced by his "administrative acumen" as his tenure as union minister has been far from impressive. "Today Karnataka needs an efficient administrator," said a senior Congress leader. Kharge was, however, said to be pinning his hope on the fact that Karnataka has never had a Dalit chief minister.

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