Congress high-command to pick next Karnataka CM: Mallikarjun Kharge

Kalaburagi: The Congress stands a very good chance of winning the Karnataka Assembly polls, and the high-command will take a call on the next chief minister, senior party leader Mallikarjun Kharge said on Tuesday indicating incumbent Siddaramaiah may not be the automatic choice. He said that the Congress high-command will choose the chief minister in consultation with the newly elected MLAs, if the party is voted to power for a second term running.

The Congress has consistently maintained that it is contesting the polls under the leadership of Chief Minister Siddaramaiah but refrained from declaring him its candidate for the top job.

Kharge's remarks indicated that the question regarding leadership in the Congress was far from settled.

When asked if the party's central leadership has decided on who would be the next chief minister, Kharge said that "unnecessary controversy" should not be created in the run-up to the elections.

"CM (Siddaramaiah) is already there. He is leading (the Congress campaign) and he is the captain. As long as he leads, he is the captain. And the party, whenever it wants, can change anybody because the high-command is the ultimate authority. In consultation with local (newly elected) MLAs, they (the high-command) will take the decision (on who will be the chief minister)," Kharge told news agency PTI.

“Since the BJP and the JDS were facing problems, they had declared their chief ministerial nominees,” Kharge, leader of the Congress party in the Lok Sabha, said without elaborating.

The BJP has declared its state unit chief BS Yeddyurappa and JDS HD Kumaraswamy as their chief ministerial faces. Both have been the state's chief ministers.

Talking about the Congress's electoral prospects, Kharge said, "We have got very good chances to win the elections and I hope that we will get a majority." He also claimed that neither the Congress nor the chief minister is facing "anti-incumbency".

Kharge defended Siddaramaiah for filing nominations from two constituencies — Chamundeshwari and Badami. Noting that Kumaraswamy is also contesting from two seats, he asked, "Have Prime Minister Narendra Modi and former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda not done so?"

"People of the area (Badami and north Karnataka) want Siddaramaiah to contest from Badami. He has got a lot of clout in that area. People (opposition parties) are creating a sort of atmosphere that there is no hope (for Siddaramaiah in Chamundeshwari) and that's why he is contesting (from Badami). It's not like that," Kharge added.

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