In Vokkaliga belt, BJP scrambles for LS candidates

Tough task ahead for party in constituencies considered strongholds of Congress, JD(S)

For the BJP, getting suitable candidates to contest the Lok Sabha elections in the Vokkaliga belt is always a challenge, especially in Mysore, Mandya, Hassan and Bangalore Rural. 

This time, too, it is facing the same challenge. Getting a winnable candidate to take on the Congress and the JD(S) is a tough task for the saffron party in these districts. However, in the Malnad region, where Vokkaligas have a considerable presence, the BJP has a bigger vote base.

If the BJP goes by the choice of the party workers, Shobha Karandlaje has every chance of becoming the candidate for the Mysore Lok Sabha seat. But politics is not that simple or straight. There are many aspirants for the ticket and many hurdles to cross. 

BJP MLC G Madhusudhan of Mysore is batting for Karandlaje. He has recommended to the party’s State leaders that she is the suitable candidate for various reasons. He said Karandlaje, when she was the Mysore district incharge minister, had done a commendable job and successfully conducted Dasara twice. She will be the ideal candidate for Mysore, a Vokkaliga belt, as she too belongs to the same caste, he feels. 

However, Karandlaje told Deccan Herald that she was not interested in contesting the Lok Sabha elections. “Come what may, I do not want to contest the elections. I would like to contest the Assembly elections. I want to campaign for the party candidates and nothing more,” she said. She had unsuccessfully contested as a KJP candidate from Rajajinagar in the last Assembly elections.

Asked if the party wants her to be the candidate, the former minister said she would convince the leaders why she was not ready to face the polls.  

Madhusudhan said Vokkaligas were not happy with sitting MP H Vishwanath of the Congress. “His style of functioning and public conduct is not appreciated by the people. The BJP should strategically field a Vokkaliga who can consolidate the votes of the community. However, the final decision will be taken by the party central leaders and not by local leaders,” he said. 

But there are many aspirants for the ticket, including C H Vijayashankar, MLC and former MP, former minister A Ramadas, Thontadarya among others. Ramadas, who was always at loggerheads with Karandlaje, is in charge of election-related work in the parliamentary constituency. But that may not be a deterring factor for Karandlaje, because finally the party would take feedback from its workers through a survey in constituencies where there are too many aspirants for a ticket, sources said. 

Ravi vs Hegde?

In case of the Udupi-Chikmagalur seat, which is considered a partial Vokkaliga belt, there is pressure on sitting MLA C T Ravi to contest. Former chief minister D V Sadananda Gowda’s name too is being considered. The party may finally settle for Ravi to face sitting Congress MP Jayaprakash Hegde as Gowda prefers Bangalore North, it is learnt. 

Asked whether he was ready to face the polls, Ravi said, “I am happy as an MLA. But if the party decides to field me, then I will have to contest. In the Malnad belt and coastal belts, Vokkaligas are with the BJP.” Even though he says the BJP has a good network in the Malnad belt, in Hassan the party has not been able to scout for a candidate who can face former prime minister H D Deve Gowda. The names of M Somashekar, a retired official, and Navile Annappa are being considered.

DVS for B’lore North?

Another crucial seat where the BJP is planning to field a Vokkaliga is Bangalore North, which is now held by D B Chandre Gowda. Sources in the party said that this is the only seat which may not see the sitting MP being repeated. However, Gowda is not averse to contesting, sources said. 

The names of D V Sadananda Gowda and MLA R Ashoka are making the rounds for Bangalore North. The Congress too is planning to field a Vokkaliga or an OBC for this seat as the constituency has a sizable voting population of these two castes. Sadananda Gowda, it is said, is not inclined to contest from any other Vokkaliga seat, including Mysore, Hassan or his erstwhile Chikmagalur-Udupi constituency. But, the party is yet to take a final decision in this regard. 

It is also not sure of getting strong candidates to face the Congress or the JD(S) in Bangalore Rural, Chikkaballapur and Tumkur. The names of MLA Suresh Gowda and Sogadu Shivanna are being considered.

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