AK Antony panel meets as Congress takes measured steps to Karnataka polls

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AK Antony panel meets as Congress takes measured steps to Karnataka polls
New Delhi:  Buoyed by its recent success in civic polls in Karnataka, Congress has begun steps to put its house in order to wrest power from BJP in the May 5 Assembly elections.

As part of the exercise, the newly constituted high level co-ordination and monitoring committee headed by Defence Minister A K Antony for the coming Assembly polls had its maiden meeting today, with the first list of candidates likely to be announced next week.

Former Union Minister Ambika Soni, Overseas Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi, former Goa chief minister Luizinho Faleiro and Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports Jitendra Singh are other members of the committee.

AICC general secretary and incharge of Karnataka affairs Madhusudan Mistry, KPCC president G Parmeshwara and Congress Legislative Party leader Siddharamiah are ex-officio members of the Committee.

The meeting of the Antony Committee was held hours after party chief Sonia Gandhi held consultations with Parmeshwara and Siddaramaiah on the strategy ahead.

Rahul Gandhi had a meeting with Parmeshwara and Siddaramaiah in the party office yesterday.

This is for the first time such a high powered group has been set up for any assembly election in a single state.

A senior party leader speaking on condition of anonymity said the first list of candidates could be announced next week after meeting of the Central Election Committee. The party has already shortlisted the panel of candidates from the PCC level.

The group headed by Antony to "coordinate and monitor" assembly elections has been constituted in the backdrop of apprehensions that senior leaders from Karnataka would grab major portion of tickets for their followers which could lead to wrong choice of candidates and affect the prospects of the organisation.

There have been Chief Ministerial aspirants galore in the party including some Union Ministers and MPs. AICC has already made it clear that the party would not project anyone for the top job.

Former Union Minister S M Krishna had not attended the meeting of the party's Chintan Shivir some time back reportedly indicating his unhappiness over not being given a place of prominence in the party for assembly elections in his home state Karnataka.

There are indications from the party that although Krishna would be a "father figure" for the state, Congress will prefer a relatively young face to lead the party there.

There have been apprehensions that dissidence could grow in the party if there was no proper distribution of tickets and the rebels could spoil the chances of the party by trying to secure tickets of the Janata Dal-s led by H D Deve Gowda.

There is another challenge from some independents and former BJP MLAs, who have resigned from their seats and re keen to contest on Congress tickets there.

Another senior leader speaking on condition of anonymity sounded a word of caution saying that leaders should avoid self-goal and do not take urban body poll results as an indicator for its victory granted in assembly elections.

The leader also cited the example of Congress-ruled Delhi, where the BJP had won the civic bodies polls but lost in the Assembly elections.

"BJP is on a weak wicket. But we cannot drop the guard.

We have to take the Karnataka elections seriously," said the leader.

Congress had last week formed another screening committee for the state headed by senior party leader Luizinho Faleiro.

Union Minister Jitender Singh and AICC general secretary in-charge for State Madhusudan Mistry besides KPCC and chief G Parmeshwara and CLP leader Siddaramaiah are its other members.

After the exit of Yeddyurappa from BJP, the party is counting on the votes of Lingayats, once the base of Congress, which later shifted largely to the former.



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