M A I N   N E W S

Congress leaders looking for safe seats
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 4
If a number of senior Congress leaders are opting out of the electoral race, there are a host of others who are scouting around for safe seats.

With candidate selection for the Lok Sabha poll having got under way, senior leaders are sending out feelers about their choice of safe seats. However, not all are expected to have their way. This issue may figure in the second meeting of the party’s Central Election Committee (CEC) tomorrow when it takes up the selection of candidates from states going to the poll in the first phase.

Heading the list of those wanting to shift is Karnataka Chief Minister S.M. Krishna, who wishes to move from his old assembly seat, Maddur in Mandya district, to either Bangalore Rural or Bangalore City. Party sources said although Mr Krishna’s old district is a “hotbed of Vokkilagas”, the Chief Minister has lost favour with his own community.

Consequently, an otherwise safe seat has become too hot for him to handle. With the Congress facing a tough contest in the upcoming assembly and Lok Sabha elections, a change of constituency by the Chief Minister is bound to send out a negative signal to the party workers and the electorate.

As it is, the Congress in Karnataka is still to recover from the shock of seeing its former Chief Minister S. Bangarappa cross over to the BJP. An important OBC leader, Mr Bangarappa’s departure, it is stated, will impact the party in at least 30 assembly seats and four Lok Sabha constituencies of Shimoga, North Canara, Udipi and Managlore.

Former Union Minister Balram Jakhar, it is learnt, does not wish to contest from Sikar, his old constituency, and is instead eyeing the Churu seat in Rajasthan. According to Congress sources, Mr Jakhar has shifted his seat in earlier elections as well, having moved from Bikaner to Sikar. This time round, it is stated, Mr Jakhar’s move is prompted by the fact that his bete noire, Rajasthan PCC chief Narayan Singh, is from Sikar and could work against him.

Former Home Minister Buta Singh wanted to move from Jalore in Rajasthan and even met Gorkha National Liberation Front’s (GNLF) Subhash Ghising to seek his support for the Darjeeling seat. Mr Buta Singh was hoping to cash in on the fact that he had been instrumental in the signing of the Gorkhaland accord. Having got a negative response, Mr Buta Singh will have little choice but to contest from Jalore where he will have to fight former BJP President Bangaru Laxman.

Col Sona Ram, sitting Congress MP from Barmer, Rajasthan, would like to move to Jodhpur as he has fallen foul of the local party cadres in his constituency. However, he cannot hope to get anywhere in Jodhpur without the “blessings” of former Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot who belongs to this city. Mr Gehlot is unlikely to oblige Col Sona Ram as the latter had campaigned actively against the official candidates in the recent assembly elections.

Ms Girjia Vyas, who won from Udaipur, had wanted to move to Bhilwara but it is unlikely that she will be allowed to shift.

As for those who do not wish to take the Lok Sabha route, the list is endless. These include Mr Arjun Singh, Mr K. Natwar Singh and former Chief Ministers Digvijay Singh and Ashok Gehlot.

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