Kharge named Congress leader in Karnataka assembly

May 28th, 2008 - 11:01 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Sonia Gandhi

Bangalore, May 28 (IANS) Congress president Sonia Gandhi Wednesday endorsed the newly elected party legislators’ choice of Mallikarjun Kharge as the Congress leader in the Karnataka assembly. As the Congress legislative party (CLP) leader, the 66-year-old Kharge will be the new leader of opposition in the 225-member lower house. He will also continue to be the party’s state unit leader.

Kharge’s name was unanimously proposed to Gandhi by 78 of the 80 newly-elected legislators at a marathon meeting of the CLP at the party office here.

One legislator, Srinivas Prasad from Mysore, could not attend the meet, while another left the choice to the party high command.

“The legislators passed a unanimous resolution authorising the party president to name the CLP leader. Kharge’s name was proposed by former deputy chief minister Siddaramaiah and seconded by former minister D.K. Shivkumar,” Congress central observer Prithviraj Chavan, who looks after the party affairs in the state, told reporters later.

Party sources said when Chavan and the other central observer, former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh, sought the opinion of the legislators individually, 59 of them preferred Kharge to Siddaramaiah and Shiv Kumar, who too was in the race for the post. The leader of opposition post, which goes to the largest opposition party in the assembly, enjoys cabinet rank status.

Only 11 legislators favoured Siddaramaiah and eight Shiv Kumar.

Kharge’s choice was preceded by high drama and heated debate over the procedure to be adopted for the election process. A section of the legislators wanted the observers to conduct secret ballot for electing the CLP leader, while another group pressed for leaving the choice to the party president.

Kharge got elected from the Chittapur reserved constituency in Gulbarga district of north Karnataka. Though he won for the ninth consecutive time, he had to shift from the adjacent Gurmitkal segment after it was de-reserved in the delimitation exercise.

Incidentally, it is the second time Kharge will be the CLP leader after occupying the post in 1995-99 during the tenure of the Janata Dal-led government under late J.H. Patel.

Though Kharge during his meeting with Sonia Gandhi Tuesday in New Delhi offered to resign as Congress state president in the wake of the party’s debacle in the assembly elections, he was asked to continue till a leader was chosen to the post.

As per the party’s constitution, election to the state unit president’s post is held once in three years. Since Kharge took over from Janaradhan Poojary in 2006 and has still a year to go, the party president will nominate another state leader as his successor in due course.

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