Prestige of many leaders at stake

Prestige of many leaders at stake

Prestige of many leaders at stake

Karnataka has been throwing up surprises to political parties in every election held in the last one decade. In 2004, elections threw up a hung Assembly. In the Assembly elections held in 2008, the BJP bloomed and Karnataka became the first southern state to be ruled by the saffron party.

In 2013, electorate dumped the BJP, which had split with former chief minister B S Yeddyurappa forming his own KJP and contesting the elections. The Congress managed to return to power on  its own.

However, in 2009 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP topped the results chart followed by the Congress and the Janata Dal (S).  With the JD (S) losing two seats to the Congress in the by-polls, the current tally is that the BJP has 18 MPs followed by,the Congress (9)  and the JD-S (1).

In the 2014 LS elections, the Congress is struggling to improve upon its performance and the BJP will be too happy with a repeat performance. As in the past, the JD (S), the regional party, is not being discussed much, except in a few constituencies.

Former prime minister H D Deve Gowda, the JD (S) patriarch, who is seeking his sixth term in the Lok Sabha, may not have a cakewalk in his home terrain Hassan. His son and former CM H D Kumaraswamy  shifted to Chikballapur from Bangalore Rural constituency, hoping to enter Lok Sabha again. The JD (S) could not even field strong candidates in its presumed stronghold – Old Mysore region.

Political pundits see this as a ploy to help the BJP in certain select constituencies. There is nothing new in this as the JD (S), in the past, had hobnobbed with national parties for political gains.

A cursory look at the trends in the 28  constituencies  shows that for the BJP, the Modi factor has become a crutch to sell its candidates both  in urban and rural pockets. BJP candidates are trying to cash in the Modi factor. Be it remote villages in the most backward district of Koppal or IT City Bangalore, the Hindutva hero is being discussed.

BJP national secretary Ananth Kumar, seeking his sixth straight term from the Bangalore South, is no exception and is banking on the popularity of party prime ministerial candidate. But the hard reality is that anti-incumbency factor has hit the sitting BJP MPs. Be it Kumar or State BJP president Pralhad Joshi, they are  sweating out to retain their seats.

In comparison to the BJP, the Congress has nothing to showcase.  Besides the anti-incumbancy of 10 years rule of the United Progressive Alliance, candidates are finding it difficult to defend the string of scams that rocked the second term of the Manmohan Singh government. Spiralling prices of essential items and fuel are being debated across the state.

As Congress national leaders have not been able to make much of an impact on the electorate, chief minister Siddaramaiah is forced to work overtime. He is straining his vocal chords and has been lashing out at the BJP, particularly targeting  Modi and calling him a “narahantaka” for 2002 Godhra riots.

Undeterred by the EC pulling him up for his remarks, the CM has continued his attack on Modi. He has positioned himself  well as the leader of backward classes, more so as the leader of Kurubas (shepherd community, constituting the third largest voters in the state). He is banking on many of his “Bhagya” schemes, including Anna Bhagya, under which the poor get rice for Re1 a kg, to consolidate his position by sending as many MPs as possible to Delhi.

Of the three union ministers renominated by the Congress, Mallikarjun Kharge and K H Muniyappa are contesting from the reserved constituencies of Gulbarga and Kolar respectively, while Veerappa Moily is trying reelecction from the backward constituency of Chikballapur  Besides Kumaraswamy, Moily has to fight it out with former minister B N Bachegowda.

For Kharge, the  visible developmental works he has initiated can turn out be a plus. Also, he has been touting the successfull passage of Article 371 J in Parliament for Hyderabad-Karnataka region as his achievement.
However, Muniyappa is finding it difficult to make it seven-time-in-a row in Kolar. He seems to have struck a secret understanding to ensure that weak opponents are fielded against him to beat anti-incumbency.

Six former CMs – Deve Gowda and Kumaraswamy of the JD(S), Moily and Dharam Singh of the Congress and Yeddyurappa and D V Sadananda Gowda of the BJP -- are trying their poll fortunes. And, naturally all of them have emerged as key contestants.

One constituency which has spotlight on is Bangalore South, where Infosys co-founder and Aadhaar scheme template creator Nandan Nilekani is contesting. The high-voltage campaign by Nilekani, be it on the field or in the cyber world,  has forced the five-time MP Ananth Kumar to rework his strategies.

If sources are to be believed, Sonia has instructed  party leaders in the state to ensure victory of uber rich Nilekani, with declared assets of Rs 7,710 crore, and “Mandya baby”-- film-actor-turned MP Ramya from Mandya. Ramya, who made her entry into the Lok Sabha in the by-polls, has rattled  the JD (S) in Mandya, a Vokkaliga belt.

While the Congress has experimented in the Bangalore South, the BJP has fielded a political greenhorn from Mysore. Pratap Simha, a staunch supporter of the RSS and a Kannada journalist, is the candidate from Mysore. He is taking onCongress MP A H Vishwanath, a close associate of the chief minister. Siddaramaiah, in his home district of Mysore, is doing his best to curb the growth of the pro-Hindutvawadi.

In Shimoga, the JD (S) is seriously fighting the battle because it has fielded late chief minister S Bangarappa’s daughter and wife of film actor Shivrajkumar, Geetha.
In 2013 Assembly elections, the Congress’ vote share was around 37 per cent while that of the BJP and JD (S) hovered around 20. The Karnataka Janatha Party of Yeddyurappa, which has now merged with the BJP, had a vote share of 9.83 per cent in the previous elections.

With the JD (S) not in the picture in a few constituencies, the Congress is hoping that its vote share will touch 40 per cent. If the BJP has to outsmart the Congress, then Modi has to swing at least 10 per cent of votes so that the saffron party  can cross 40 per cent. But then, reading the voters’ mind is not as easy as making additions or subtractions!

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