Karnataka bypolls: Sonia Gandhi nixes CM Siddaramaiah’s nominee Byrathi Suresh

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BENGALURU: In a setback to Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah, the Congress High Command on Tuesday rejected a candidate he had hand-picked to contest a bypoll for the Hebbal assembly seat in Bengaluru and gave the ticket to old party warhorse CK Jaffer Sharief ‘s grandson Rahman.

Rahman was the Congress candidate from Hebbal in 2013 and lost the elections by a margin of less than 5,000 votes to Jagadish Kumar of the BJP. Kumar died due to a heart attack, necessitating the bypoll, scheduled to be held on February 13, along with two other assembly constituencies and the first phase of the zilla and taluk panchayat polls.

Siddaramaiah had pitched for the candidature of Congress associate member and MLC Byrathi Suresh, who belongs to his community, the Kurubas, and is known to be close to him. Suresh is a realestate baron.

This is the first time that Congress president Sonia Gandhi has snubbed a suggestion given by Siddaramaiah.

Siddaramaiah said: “The decision of the High Command is final. Not just Suresh, everyone in Congress is close to me.”

“Suresh is also a good boy, but Rahman contested last time and was an aspirant this time also. Between the two, Rahman got the preference. Whoever is it, it is a Congress candidate. Siddaramaiah is a Congress CM, he will absolutely support him,” Jaffer Sharief told ET.

Sharief reportedly lobbied very hard with party president Sonia Gandhi to get the ticket, in the teeth of opposition from the CM. “I have been with the family for a long time, with Indiraji and Soniaji. I am grateful that Soniaji kept that in mind and gave us the ticket,” Sharief added. The Congress president also turned down the candidature of Rizwan Arshad, the state’s youth Congress chief, who is close to her son and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi. Arshad was given the Bengaluru Central Lok Sabha constituency ticket in 2014, despite serious lobbying by Sharief for it. He, however, lost to the BJP’s PC Mohan, strengthening Sharief ‘s cause.

Siddaramaiah’s camp refused to acknowledge that this was a snub to him.”Sharief is an old man and the High Command must have felt sympathy for him.The CM suggested Suresh, keeping the winnability factor in mind. This decision goes against that factor,” a leader close to Siddaramaiah stated.

The BJP is jubilant that the Congress is a divided house.

“This shows that Siddaramaiah no longer has the support of the High Command. The divisions in the Congress will benefit us. We will win without any doubt,” former home minister and Bengaluru city MLA R Ashoka told ET.

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