The formation of a new government in Karnataka — the 27th since Independence —is expected to be a long-drawn affair given the number of contenders for the Chief Minister’s post and the need to maintain unity of the party.

Sources in the Congress told The Hindu that the selection of the leader is expected to be finalised over the weekend after ascertaining the views of all the newly elected legislators.

With Karnataka having a bicameral legislature, the views of the party members in the Legislative Council may also be elicited before the party high command pronounces its choice.

To begin with, only those elected to the Legislative Assembly have been invited to an exclusive meeting on Friday.

Defence Minister A.K. Antony, who headed the election coordination committee in the State and who is also conversant about the party affairs here, will arrive in Bangalore along with party general secretary in charge, Madhusudan Mistry, to speak to the legislators. Ambika Soni is also slated to be here to participate in the discussions.

The front runners for the post of Chief Minister are Union Minister M. Mallikarjun Kharge and Siddaramaiah, and both are acknowledged as mass leaders with a good following.

While Mr. Kharge, a Dalit, is one of the seniormost Congress leaders in the State and enjoys an impeccable record as a legislator and Minister, Mr. Siddaramaiah crossed over to the Congress in 2007 and enjoys considerable clout across all sections. The others who have joined the race for the coveted post, over the past two days, are the former KPCC president, R.V. Deshpande, and the former KPCC working president, D.K. Shivakumar , apart from H.K. Patil.

Incidentally, KPCC president G. Parameshwara, who was defeated in the Assembly elections, told this correspondent: “I am also a contender and will abide by the directions of the high command.”

According to Congress sources, the process of forming the new government in the State is expected to take shape with the arrival of the top leaders.

Mr. Mistry has said there will be no delay in forming the new government.