Karnataka PCC working president Dinesh Gundu Rao today said he was confident about Congress returning to power in the May 12 state assembly polls. Incumbent Siddaramaiah will be the "front-runner" for the Chief Minister's post, he said.
Asserting that there was no anti-incumbency against the Siddaramaiah government, he took a dig at BJP, saying its president Amith Shah is becoming a "star campaigner" for the ruling party. He also raised questions about Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "absence from campaigning."
"Congress is going for election under the leadership of Chief Minister, it has been stated. It is under his leadership entire campaign is being run...he is the face of the election, he is the captain of our team," Rao told PTI.
"CM will be decided after the election, if we win, CLP will meet and decide, but he (Siddaramaiah) is the captain of our team, so obviously if we win again, he will be the front-runner," he said.
Rao, however, did not wish to respond whether Congress' decision not to announce chief ministerial candidate was to avoid any divisions or conflict within the party, with KPCC president G Parameshwara also seen as a serious contender for the top job.
Though the party has not announced any chief ministerial candidate, it has named Siddaramaiah as its face.
Rao said he was confident about the Congress performing better than it did during the 2013 assembly polls when it won 122 out of 224 seats.
"I think we will do better than last time because last time was the election based upon anti or negative BJP (wave)...this time in the election people are not only unhappy with BJP, but they are happy with the Congress in Karnataka."
Rao also claimed that there was no anti-incumbency, adding, instead, "there is pro-incumbency."
"We will improve than last time, but we will have to get the ticket distribution everything done correctly."
"We should see to it that deserving people get the ticket, if we do that correctly, then I think definitely there will be no other problem," he said.
When it was pointed out that after 1985 no party in the state has been able to retain power consecutively, he observed that they were unable to come back due to reasons like division or dissidents within the party. However, there was nothing of that sort this time, he said.
"We have given a very stable, good government, and have delivered on our promises which have reached the people. This is a pro-incumbency government, people are preferring us to other parties," he said.
Ruling out "Modi wave", Rao said the "Modi factor or phenomenon is going down because people are not seeing tangible results."
He pointed out that Modi has not come to Karnataka for the last one-and-half months and has been cancelling his programmes.
"Why is he cancelling? Why is he not coming to Karnataka? Why is only Amit Shah touring? Modi himself is apprehensive I think," Rao said.
Shah's repeated visits to the poll-bound state have had no impact, Rao claimed.
"I think Amit Shah is becoming a star campaigner for the Congress because whatever he is doing is helping us," he said, citing his "gaffes."
He claimed that Shah coming to the state has also suffocated the BJP, as state leaders have "become voiceless",
"The more Amit Shah campaigns for BJP, the better it is for Congress," he said.
Responding to a question on former prime minister Deve Gowda's JDS, Rao said, post-election, the party that talked about secular credentials may join hands with the BJP.
He said as both these parties know that they cannot get the majority on their own, they have an internal pact to thwart Congress from getting a majority.
Asked about joining hands with JDS in case of a hung assembly, as Congress has worked with the party in the past, Rao said: "The problem is they (JDS) are not reliable."
"They don't have ideology and philosophy... How can you have any plan based on them?," he said.
Hitting out at the BJP for calling Congress and Rahul Gandhi "election Hindu," and defending visits to mutts and religious places, Rao said, the opposition is more aggressively doing it.
"Amit Shah is even conducting meetings of swamijis, which is so political," he said.
Claiming that Congress leaders have been to temples in the past also while campaigning, he said "it is an attempt by BJP to target Rahul Gandhi by accusing him of trying to get political mileage....which is not true."
Rao also said the party has nothing to do with the issue of religious minority status to Lingayats and Veerashaiva Lingayats and the issue will not make much impact in the polls.
"Lingayat has nothing to do with the poll prospects or politics; Congress party does not have a stand on this, we have not taken any stand," he said.
Terming it is a "community issue", Rao said the chief minister has followed procedure following the demand from the community.
On addressing internal bickerings and disgruntlement within the party ahead of the election, Rao, also a former minister, said: "Things will happen, but we will have to see to that we limit such disturbances..."