Congress begins preparation for Lok Sabha polls

Bangalore, June 29 (IANS) Flush from its victory in last month's Karnataka assembly polls, the Congress has seriously begun preparing for the Lok Sabha elections though there is no definite indication they would be held before they're due next May.

Contrary to statements by central Congress leaders that the polls will be held when due, Karnataka Congress chief G. Parameshwara has of late been saying they may be advanced and the state unit must be prepared.

Following up on this, he has dispatched teams to all 28 Lok Sabha constituencies in the state to sound out local leaders on the probable candidates.

With the Congress returning to power on its own in Karnataka after nine years, Parameshwara wants the state unit to cash in on this and aim to bag all the 28 seats.

He, however, acknowledged this is a tall order as the party had won just six seats in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls.

The early start to preparations is clearly aimed at ensuring the party machinery remains well-oiled and also keeping himself active as he failed to retain his seat in the assembly polls and thus the chance of becoming chief minister.

The exercise will help the party remain focussed on the next big task facing it rather than getting stuck in internal squabbles as many heavyweights in the state unit have not been made ministers.

Fortunately for the Congress, the rumblings over denial of ministerial berths did not blow up in its face though there are calls by a section in the state unit for setting up a panel for coordination between the government and the party organization.

The move, initiated earlier this month by veteran Congressman and legislator M.V. Rajashekaran, is aimed at curbing Chief Minister Siddaramaiah's alleged tendency to take unilateral decisions to hog the limelight.

Rajashekaran's move, however, does not seem to have impressed the Congress High Command as there has been no indication of any action on it so far.

Despite such problems in his unit, Parameshwara is confident that the Congress will win more Lok Sabha seats this time as the main rival Bharatiya Janata Party remains a troubled outfit both at the national and at state levels.

The BJP in Karnataka is yet to get out of the shock of the drubbing suffered in the May 5 assembly poll which ended its maiden rule in the state.

The BJP won just 40 seats in the 225-member assembly against 110 in 2008.

The BJP had won 19 of the 28 Lok Sabha seats in 2009 but a section in the state unit is not confident of repeating the show this time following the dismal performance in the assembly polls.

This section, comprising loyalists of the BJP's first chief minister in the state B.S. Yeddyurappa, has been actively lobbying for his return to the party to brighten its prospects in the Lok Sabha polls.

Yeddyurappa now heads his own Karnataka Janata Party (KJP).

His return is however being opposed by state BJP chief Pralhad Joshi, former chief minister Jagadish Shettar, party general secretary and Bangalore South Lok Sabha member H.N. Ananth Kumar, among others.

This issue looks like keeping the state BJP divided, whatever be the solution.

The other major party in the state is the Janata Dal-Secular which had bagged just three Lok Sabha seats in 2009. Its performance in the assembly polls was also poor as it too got only 40 seats.

A weak opposition and the state Congress strategy of playing the early mover advantage card may help the party perform well in the Lok Sabha elections too to match its victory in the assembly polls, when it won 122 of the 225 seats.

(V.S. Karnic can be contacted at vs.karnic@ian.in)

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