Union Labour and Employment Minister M. Mallikarjun Kharge, who narrowly missed the chance to become the first Dalit Chief Minister of Karnataka after the 2008 Assembly elections, says that the question of choosing the leader of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) is the exclusive prerogative of the party high command. He spoke to The Hindu in Gulbarga. Excerpts of the interview with Mr Kharge:
Q: Does the amendment of Article 371 and granting of special status to Hyderabad Karnataka region help the Congress in the elections?
A: Amendment of Article 371 of the Constitution has gone well with the youth and educated people in both the urban and rural areas. This is seen as an act which would change the future of the present and future generations. This would definite help the Congress in the elections.
The BJP has been telling voters that if the party is voted back to power, a leader from north Karnataka would be Chief Minister.
BJP is desperate to win back the lost ground in the State and has now resorted to project a north Karnataka leader as the chief ministerial candidate. Why a north Karnataka leader was not made Chief Minister immediately after B.S. Yeddyurappa stepped down is the question. They are projecting this as they are losing their ground in north Karnataka. People would not be fooled by such gimmicks.
Why is the Congress hesitant to name the Chief Minister candidate?
The Congress never names the Chief Minister candidate in any of the elections held in the States and the CLP leader is chosen after the elections by the party high command. The same principle is being followed in Karnataka also.
Are you in the race for the Chief Minister’s post?
I have clarified several times that selection of a person as the Chief Minister is left to the party high command and I have nothing to say on this.
How would the rebel factor and discontentment among the party leaders and workers harm the prospects of the party?
The initiative taken by the central leaders of the party, particularly Oscar Fernandes and A K Antony, have paid rich dividend and almost all rebels have withdrawn from the contest and these leaders were instrumental in bridging the gaps and bringing together all sections of the party.
Would the alleged scams and corruption charges faced by the UPA government be an issue in the State Assembly elections?
The so called corruption and alleged scams at the national level would not be an issue in the State Assembly elections. This is a local election and local issues and the performance of the previous government and corruption charges faced by them would be an issue in the State Assembly elections.
Would there be another round of polarisation of political parties after the elections?
No, I do not think so.