As the Congress’s first list of candidates for the Karnataka elections is finalised, there is a question mark over whether former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah would contest from the Kolar seat, like he had announced a few weeks ago, or shift to his family’s stronghold Varuna in Chamarajanagar district of the Old Mysore region.
Varuna, where Siddaramaiah won from in 2008 and 2013 is represented by his son Yathindra who won in 2018. And, if Siddaramaiah does choose to return to Varuna, then his son will stay out of the elections all together and not contest from any other seat, according to Congress party sources.
In fact, the Kolar or Varuna speculation was sparked off by the former Chief Minster himself when he told reporters after a meeting with the Congress high command that “his name was not cleared in the first list and he will abide by the high command’s decision”
However, senior leaders close to Congress top leadership in Delhi are categorical that it is Siddaramaiah’s choice to make and he will have the final say on his seat, as is the case with any CLP leader. “It’s not the High Command that is deciding this, he will choose the seat he feels safest” they add.
They point out that it was Siddaramaiah who announced that he would contest from Kolar and in several constituencies, he has clearly indicated who the candidate is likely to be.
Given that he is at the forefront of the Congress campaign in the State, senior leaders are wary that confusion over his seat is an embarrassment for the party. But, for the former Chief Minister it seems to be a case of ‘once bitten, twice shy’.
In 2018, he contested from Badami in Hyderabad Karnataka region and Chamundeshwari near Mysore. The latter was a prestige battle and he lost it to G.T.Deve Gowda of the Janata Dal (secular).
The fact that the JD(S) sees Siddaramaiah as an arch rival and there are sections within the Congress that would like to weaken his claim to be Chief Minster if the party comes to power, he is extremely wary of the seat he fights from.
It is an open secret that the State Congress president, DK Shivakumar – who is from the Vokkaliga caste that the JD(S) represents – will also be a contender for the Chief Minster’s post if the Congress comes to power and that has meant that all sides are wary of the other. And, hence it is not a safe seat for the party as a whole that they will have to choose, but a seat where they control the narrative themselves.
Firstly, Siddaramaiah would like to contest from a place that is geographically most convenient to run a campaign across the State. While Badami that he represents is considered a safe seat it will be difficult from him to run a pan-Karnataka campaign from the constituency outside of the Old Mysore region.
Secondly, and more importantly, is the quest for a totally secure seat to ensure he is not tied down to it. Varuna fits both parameters and his son is in a strong position to run the campaign there and pollsters within the Congress, including those engaged by Siddaramaiah himself, seem to have suggested that it is a “lot safer” than Kolar.
Varuna would mean not having his son Yathindra in the Congress Legislature Party in a post poll scenario, as it has been made clear that he can’t contest from any other seat.
Despite this, sources close to Siddaramaiah suggest that he is veering away from Kolar towards Varuna and that either way the decision will be announced before the Congress’s first list is declared on the 22nd after Rahul Gandhi’s campaign in Belgaum.