The BJP's decision to withhold Tejaswini Ananth Kumar's candidature from Bangalore South has given rise to speculations that Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself might contest from the said Lok Sabha constituency.
The party on Thursday announced candidates for 21 out of 28 Lok Sabha seats in Karnataka -- interestingly leaving out its stronghold Bangalore South, from the list.
Non-declaration of Tejaswini's candidature came as a complete surprise, given that she was tipped to succeed her late husband and former union minister H N Ananth Kumar, who had represented the seat six consecutive terms since 1996.
While a section of state leaders maintained that her name had been finalised and that it was a matter of time before the party announced her candidature, sources in the know told DH that there was no "oversight".
They said the central leadership had specifically chosen to withhold her candidature, as Modi was considering contesting from two seats, like in 2014.
In the previous Lok Sabha elections, Modi had contested from Vadodara and Varanasi. After winning both seats, he had chosen to retain Varanasi, resigning from Vadodara.
Sources said Modi may not contest from Gujarat this time, as the party's national president, Amit Shah, is contesting from Gandhinagar.
Modi instead has been advised to zero in on a seat in southern India, where the BJP's presence and his own popularity is limited.
"It's a well thought out strategy. If Modi contests from a constituency like Bangalore South, not only will the BJP's numbers boost in Karnataka; the party's prospects will dramatically improve in the entire southern region," said a state leader.
The state BJP has claimed that it will secure at least 22 seats in these elections.
But an internal survey, indicating poorer performance, is said to have rattled the central leaders.
"At best, we are looking at winning 15 to 16 seats from Karnataka this time. But if Modi contests from the state, then will bag more than 22 seats. We even stand a chance at winning seats like Bangalore Rural, Chikkaballapur, Kolar and Tumkur, if he picks Bangalore South," the leader added.
Yet another gamble
The party had won 17 seats in 2014 but had lost the Bellary Lok Sabha seat to the Congress during the bypolls held last November.
Karnataka is the only state in southern India where the BJP has not only made inroads, it had also successfully formed a government here in 2008.
Though the party had suffered a setback during the 2013 Assembly elections, it had bounced back during the 2018 Assembly polls, winning 104 seats.
But as it lacked a majority, the Congress and JD(S) entered into an alliance and formed the government nine months ago.
Ever since then, the party has made several futile attempts to come back to power by trying to topple the coalition government.
"Modi's candidature from Karnataka will upset the coalition applecart to such an extent that post elections, the BJP will be in a position to for the government in the state," said a Bengaluru based leader.
RaGa & Modi
Interestingly, the proposal for Modi to contest from Karnataka is being revealed days after the clamour for Congress president Rahul Gandhi to contest from the state.
"The state BJP leaders had mooted this idea to Modi during a meeting sometime back. But he had dismissed it then. It now looks like he is reconsidering it," the leader added.
Apparently, Tejaswini will not be given a raw deal. "If this pans out, Modi is certain to win both Varanasi and Bangalore South. In such an event, he will retain Varanasi like last time and resign from Bangalore South, paving way for Tejaswini's candidature," said party insiders.
Incidentally, when Modi resigned from Vadodara in 2014, he had made way for a woman politico (Ranjanben Dhanajay Bhatt) even then.
Ever since her candidature was finalised a few days back, Tejaswini has not only been campaigning in the constituency, she has also been paying visits to some powerful Mutts, including the Suttur and Siddaganga Mutts.
Though her candidature was opposed by a few Bengaluru leaders, they had later fallen in line.
Though Bangalore South is among the 20 seats the Congress has chosen to contest from, it is struggling to identify a candidate to be fielded here.
The party which is witness to the 'problem of plenty' in most constituencies, however, has no takers for Bangalore South.
The Congress has approached several leaders including MLAs Ramalinga Reddy and his daughter Sowmya Reddy, Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Gowda and former MLA Priya Krishna. But all of them have declined the ticket.
Bangalore South, with eight Assembly segments, has a sizeable population of both Brahmin and Vokkaliga votes.