State of no choice

The Karnataka Congress is a party in search of a leader. It is a party in pursuit of an election mission statement, a manifesto. It is a party chasing the elusive glue to stick its divergent factions together. Yet, and this is none of its doing, many expect the party to pull off a victory in the just-announced assembly elections in May. Some Congressmen may choose not to see the irony in this situation.

What this does reveal is that Karnataka's voters are bereft of choices. In 45 days, they will choose between a motley bunch of parties that have no vision at all for bettering the state or its capital, Bangalore.

The Congress in Karnataka is already hearing the distant but approaching sound of the victory drums. To win, it is banking entirely on the anti-incumbency vote. It wants to go to the voters and count aloud the misdemeanours of the BJP government. The co-chairman of its election committee, D.K. Shivakumar, said the campaign would rest on the BJP's misrule. "We will tell the voters how the BJP set Karnataka's image back by 20 years."

To lead this campaign, the party needs leaders. There, the Karnataka Congress has many leaders and, consequently, none. The leader of its legislature party and the leader of the opposition is Siddaramaiah, a relatively recent entrant into the party. In the caste jigsaw, Siddaramaiah is a Kuruba, a backward class in the state. The president of the Karnataka Congress and the chairman of its election campaign committee is G. Parameshwara, an SC leader appointed in 2010. Neither sees eye to eye with each other, partly because both are legitimate chief ministerial aspirants.

It should be a straight leadership fight between the two by virtue of their positions, but were it only that simple. Also in the reckoning are several others, including two Union ministers. Corporate Affairs Minister Veerappa Moily is a former chief minister who is said to hold favour with the Gandhi family in Delhi, and is rumoured to be looking for a comeback. Moily belongs to the backward classes faction. Labour Minister Mallikarjun Kharge, on the other hand, is an SC leader who has had at least one near-miss for the chief ministerial post already.

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