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Cong initiates consultation process to pick CM in Karnataka

Siddaramaiah and Union Minister Mallikarjun Kharge are locked in a close race for the top post

The Congress central leadership today began the process of consultations with MLAs on choosing the new chief minister, with Siddaramaiah and Union Minister Mallikarjun Kharge locked in a close race for the top post.

A four-member team of AICC observers, comprising senior minister A K Antony, Congress General Secretary in-charge of the state Madhusudan Mistri; Luizinho Faleiro, who was Karnataka's screening committee chairman and Union Minister Jitender Singh are meeting the MLAs at the party office.

Both Siddaramaiah and Kharge have raised the pitch of their campaig, seeking to mobilise the support of MLAs.

Siddaramaiah, a backward class leader who made a lateral entry to Congress six years ago, met former External Affairs Minister S M Krishna for about 20 minutes, apparently seeking his support.

Ahead of the meeting, KPCC chief G Parameshwara did not rule himself out of the race, though he suffered a shock defeat in the elections.

Parameshwara said he had played an important role in bringing the Congress back to power along with the collective leadership. "It is my desire also to get a share in the fruit", he said but added that ultimately, it was the High Command which would decide the chief minister.

D K Shivakumar, who had also thrown his hat in the ring, said there was no "division" among the party leaders. "Whatever the High Command decides, we will bow before it."

According to indications, the AICC observers team would elicit the opinion of the legislators and report to the High Command for a final call on the issue.

Even as the Congress High Command is grappling with the leadership, lobbying for ministerial berths has already begun.

Staging a spectacular comeback, the Congress had dethroned the BJP, winning 121 seats to take over the reins of administration after a seven-year gap.