KARNATAKA

Political activity gaining momentum

CHIKMAGALUR, FEB. 26. With the admission of the former Chairman of Legislative Council, B.L. Shankar, and the former All India Progressive Janata Dal MLA from Birur, K.B. Mallikarjun, to the Congress, political activity is slowly gaining momentum in Chikmagalur district.

Though the admission of Mr. Shankar was expected, there is some discontent among the Congress workers in the district unit.

However, the party's State unit leaders believe that the admission of Mr. Shankar and Mr. Mallikarjun has strengthened the party in the district.

Even as the name of Mr. Shankar has been included in the list of probable candidates of the party for the Lok Sabha elections to be submitted by the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee to the party High Command on Friday, the former Vice-President of the District Congress Committee, M.B. Nagaraj, has applied to the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee seeking the party ticket to contest the elections from the Chikmagalur Lok Sabha constituency.

Mr. Nagaraj, who is seeking the party ticket based on seniority, said it was not proper to nominate those who have joined the party now, as it meant doing injustice to party loyalists.

The appointment of leaders from other political parties to various boards and committees had resulted in frustration among senior Congressmen in the district.

The nomination of candidates, who joined the party now, for the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections would lead to more discontent, he cautioned.

Charge refuted

However, Mr. Shankar has at a recent press conference refuted the charge that he was "opportunistic.''

Mr. Shankar said that all defectors were not "opportunists'' but only those who defected with an eye on power could be considered so.

He said he submitted resignation to the post of Minister of Industries soon after the former Chief Ministers, Ramakrishna Hegde and J.H. Patel, joined hands with the National Democratic Alliance to face an election then.

His ideological struggle began five years ago, he added.

Mr. Shankar said he had been forced to opt between the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Though he was opposed to the Congress during his student days, he opted for the Congress, as he was not in favour of the BJP ideology.

While criticising the BJP for playing with the sentiments of the people, he said the Congress had programmes for the betterment of society.

Mr. Shankar expressed his inclination to enter national politics rather than stay in State politics.

Meanwhile, sources in the Janata Dal (Secular) said the party would field a "powerful'' candidate against the Congress and BJP in the Lok Sabha elections.

As the process of realignment of political forces was still on, the party was hoping to field a "prize catch", the sources added.

The BJP is planning to field D.C. Srikantappa, who has represented the constituency since 1998.

However, D.K. Taradevi is also making efforts to contest the elections.

According to the party sources, Mr. Srikantappa is popular among the people in the constituency and there is a possibility of him getting the party ticket.