Even though the Congress managed to persuade a few strong rebel candidates in Karnataka to withdraw from the contest at the last moment, the party is still grappling with the dissidence factor. Quite a few disgruntled leaders are still determined to fight the May 5 assembly elections as independents.
There are about 20 rebel Congress candidates in the fray now. Former MLA K Chandrashekhar and AS Ravindra, a staunch loyalist of former Union minister SM Krishna, withdrew from the contest on the last day of withdrawal of nominations on Saturday.
While Chandrashekhar had filed nomination from Basavanagudi, Ravindra withdrew from Mandya but continues to be in the fray from Srirangapatna.
In Mandya, the party has fielded his bete noire and actor-turned-politician MH Ambareesh who had threatened to withdraw from the contest if Ravindra was given the ticket. The rivalry between the two goes back to 2008 when Ambareesh held Ravindra responsible for his defeat.
In a keenly contested election where every seat counts, the Congress — that is battling hard to recapture power in Karnataka after around seven years — can ill afford to allow the rebels to upset its calculations.
The party’s hopes of regaining power had revived with its performance in recent local bodies’ elections in which it pushed the ruling BJP to the third place after the JD(S).
As the panic buttons were pressed, Congress managers asked veteran leaders to use their influence in convincing the rebels to fall in line. Accordingly, about 25 of them withdrew their papers, a move that gave much-needed respite to the leadership.
With the D-day approaching, senior leaders have stepped up efforts to persuade those remaining in the fray to retire in favour of the official candidates.
They are BK Sangamesh (Bhadravathi), Ravindra Srikantaiah (Srirangapatna), G Padmavathi (Rajajinagar), Sushma Gopala Reddy (Bangalore South), Yaluvahalli N Ramesh (Chikkaballapur) among others.