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Summer of ticket discontent rocks Cong

Siddaramaiah

Bangalore: Karnataka witnessed street protests, shutdowns, threats of rebellion and even tears from disgruntled ticket seekers on Monday after the Congress released a list 218 candidates late on Sunday night for the May 12 state elections.

At least 10 snubbed aspirants, including a few axed MLAs, publicly voiced their disappointment. But the Congress made light of the dissent and said it would meet all the protesters to stem any possible threat to the chances of the official candidates.

Altogether, 11 MLAs have been dropped. One of them, Manohar Tahsildar, outgoing MLA from Hangal in the north, was among the first to speak out.

"I expected to get a chance to retain my seat as I have been a dedicated party worker," he said, breaking down.

He said he hadn't decided what to do next: "I'll have to consult my followers."

At Tiptur near Bangalore, K. Shadakshari, the outgoing MLA, hit out at the party and threatened to contest as an Independent.

Life was affected in the town as his supporters called for a shutdown and held a march, with one of them attempting self-immolation.

Basavaraj Shivannanavar, the axed Byadagi MLA, however, ruled out leaving the party.

"I consider the chief minister (P.C. Siddaramaiah) my godfather; I'll never leave the party or do anything to damage it," he said after conceding his seat to S.R. Patil.

A placatory Siddaramaiah said: "Those who did not get tickets will be utilised in some other role."

State Congress president G. Parameshwar said several teams would be formed to meet all the disgruntled aspirants and pacify them.

"This kind of protest will be there in all parties. There were multiple aspirants for most seats but we can accommodate only one. Our sole criterion is that he or she should be a potential winner," Parameshwar said.

There had been a proposal to get Siddaramaiah to contest from two constituencies but sources said the high command shot it down, fearing such a move would be construed as the chief minister lacking confidence.

B.B. Chimmankatti, the Badami MLA who had offered his seat to Siddaramaiah, was a surprise omission from the candidate list, replaced by a member of the legislative council, Srinivas Mane. Chimmankatti's supporters held a protest march.

State unit vice-president K.E. Radhakrishna said the selection had been done in a professional manner.

"The candidates were scrutinised at various levels by experts in the party and even by a third-party agency. We left the final word to the high command," he said.

"We are a big party with so many aspirants: we tried to accommodate all sections of society in a balanced list.'

As expected, five relatives of senior ministers, including the chief minister's son Yathindra, have been picked. Yathindra will contest from his father's current constituency, Varuna, in Mysore. Siddaramaiah has shifted to nearby Chamundeshwari.

Of the 224 seats, the Congress will contest 223, leaving Melkote in Mandya to Darshan Puttanniah, son of the popular farmer leader K.S. Puttanniah who died recently.

Five candidates are still to be announced, but those denied tickets from the seats they had applied for have been told they will not be picked for these five.

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