Congress names Kharge as candidate for RS polls from Karnataka

(Eds: Adds Mallikarjun Kharge's reaction) Bengaluru, Jun 5 (PTI) The Congress on Friday announced veteran party leader Mallikarjun Kharge as its candidate for the June 19 elections to the four Rajya Sabha seats from Karnataka.

'Congress President Sonia Gandhi has approved the candidature of Shri Mallikarjun Kharge as Congress candidate for the ensuing biennial elections to the Rajya Sabha from Karnataka,' All India Congress Committee said in a release.

The four seats represented by Rajeev Gowda and B K Hariprasad of Congress, Prabhakar Kore of BJP and D Kupendra Reddy of JD(S) will fall vacant on June 25 with their retirement.

June 9 is the last date for filing nominations.

The Congress, with 68 MLAs in the assembly, can win one of the four seats easily on its own, so Kharge's victory is said to be certain.

Kharge, who was popularly known as 'Solillada Saradara' (a leader without defeat) faced his first electoral loss in his political life spanning several decades against BJP's Umesh Jadhav in Gulbarga by a margin of 95,452 votes in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

A nine-time MLA and two-term Lok Sabha member, he had served as Congress' floor leader in the previous Lok Sabha, and also as Union Railway and Labour Minister in the UPA government.

Kharge (77), had also been a minister in several Congress governments in the state in the past and had also served as KPCC President and Leader of the Opposition in the Karnataka Assembly.

His son Priyank Kharge is currently MLA representing Chittapur constituency and had served as a Minister during the previous Congress and coalition governments.

Kharge thanked Congress' national President Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, also state party leaders for choosing him as the candidate for the Rajya Sabha polls.

'I will try to reach up to their (leadership) expectations...it's a good opportunity to work in Rajya Sabha,' he said.

Asked about his entry to Rajya Sabha for the first time after having been elected directly by the people for long, he said, 'for 47 years I worked as a representative directly elected by the people, but because of special efforts by central and state BJP leaders, I was defeated this time.

That's (LS defeat) a closed chapter. Rajya Sabha is a new chapter.' While ruling BJP with 117 members (including Speaker), can ensure victory in two seats, the JD(S), with just 34 seats in the assembly, is not in a position to win a Rajya Sabha seat on its own, as a minimum of 44 votes are required for a candidate to win.

Speculations are rife that the Congress is likely to support JD(S) with its surplus votes for the remaining one seat if the regional party fields its supremo and former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda, and in return may seek favour during the legislative council polls slated later this month.

No final decision has been taken in this regard yet, party sources said.

JD(S) today held its legislative party meeting to discuss the strategy for the RS polls and on a candidate.

After the meeting, party leader and former Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy said, legislators were of the unanimous opinion that Gowda should contest the Rajya Sabha polls, and the final decision was yet to be taken in this regard.

The BJP too, with several aspirants, is yet to finalise its candidate for the RS polls.PTI KSU SS PTI PTI