With all indications pointing to the Congress's return to power in Karnataka after seven years, jostling for the coveted post of chief minister has begun.
Though the final decision rests with the party high command, there are at least four strong contenders for the post. Leading the race is union labour minister Mallikarjun Kharge, followed by his cabinet colleague M Veerappa Moily, state Congress chief G Parameshwara and Congress legislature party leader Siddaramaiah.
A prominent Dalit face of the Congress, Kharge, 71, has spent about 45 years in the party, winning all elections he has contested so far.
A nine-time legislator, he was elected to the Lok Sabha for the first time - from Gulbarga - in 2009 and inducted into the union cabinet.
Kharge narrowly missed becoming the state's first Dalit chief minister after the 2004 assembly elections when his party opted for Dharam Singh on the insistence of its coalition partner Janata Dal (Secular).
There is strong case for him this time as Karnataka has never had a CM from the Scheduled Castes though they constitute nearly 23% of the state's population.
Another strong contender is petroleum minister M Veerappa Moily, 73, a veteran in state politics. Elected to the assembly for the first time in 1972, he went on to become chief minister in 1992 and remained at the helm till the 1994 elections.
Moily, who belongs to the OBC segment, was a minister thrice in the state and also held the crucial finance portfolio. He was elected as an MLA six times and was also the leader of the Opposition in the assembly between 1983 and 1985.
Moily contested the Lok Sabha elections for the first time in 2009 and was elected from the Chickballapur constituency and given the law and justice portfolio as a cabinet minister.
However, he has been away from state politics for some time now and this could go against him.
Another Dalit leader Parameshwara, 62, too, is hopeful. Having been picked by the late Rajiv Gandhi, the four-time MLA was appointed state unit chief in October 2010.
Parameshwara said he would certainly put his name forward for consideration by the party high command if the Congress came to power this time.
However, the lack of a support base and limited experience could force his exit from the race.
Siddaramaiah, 55, is another strong claimant. A powerful OBC leader from the old Mysore region, he has twice been deputy chief minister of the state. He was elected to the assembly for the first time in 1983 on a Janata Party ticket.
After the split in the Janata Dal, he joined the JD(S) led by HD Deve Gowda and became the president of its state unit. Following differences with Gowda, Siddaramaiah joined the Congress in 2006, was elected to the assembly two years later and appointed as the CLP leader.
The 'outsider' tag will hamper his chances of becoming CM and his detractors in the Congress say he is yet to learn the way the party functions.
(With Naveen Ammembala in Bengaluru)