Party not sure about candidate if Deve Gowda contests seat

The Congress, which has often identified Hassan as a key Lok Sabha constituency which it has to win, finds it difficult to identify a candidate who can match the stature of JD(S) national president and former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda.

Mr. Gowda, a five-time Lok Sabha member, is yet to decide whether to contest from Hassan this time. However, the Congress has begun the process to select its candidate with the belief that Mr. Gowda would be the candidate.

According to sources, the candidates shortlisted are District Congress president B. Shivaram, Arkalgud MLA A. Manju and the former MLC S.M. Anand.

Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee president G. Parameshwara has said on many occasions that winning Hassan was the party’s prime agenda in the Lok Sabha elections, and the party had been careful in identifying its candidates.

According to sources, the party has employed a multi-pronged approach for selecting candidates. Non-government agencies have been employed by AICC vice-president Rahul Gandhi and Mr. Siddaramaiah to gauge the mood of the voters and find suitable candidates.

A senior party leader told The Hindu that selecting a candidate in Hassan was a difficult task as the voters would compare the Congress candidate with Mr. Gowda. “Though we have many strong leaders in the party, it is impossible to find someone who can match the former Prime Minister. He enjoys the status of a former Prime Minister and that enables him to have an edge in the elections. This is the problem unique to Hassan constituency,” he said.

The last time the Congress won this constituency was in 1999, when the late G. Puttaswamy Gowda defeated Mr. Deve Gowda.

Since 2002 (by-elections) Mr. Deve Gowda has won all the elections. Among the eight Assembly segments in the constituency, the Congress has won only in two, while the Janata Dal(S) has secured six. The total votes that the Congress candidates secured in the Assembly elections is nearly 1.5 lakh less than what the Janata Dal(S) candidates polled.

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