As CM eyes 2 seats, Oppn projects Cong as losing side

Congress leaders in the state are keeping their fingers crossed over Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s Badami bet

Congress leaders in the state are keeping their fingers crossed over Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s Badami bet as the Opposition BJP and the JD(S) are working overtime to project his latest decision to contest from the second seat as a sign of nervousness in the ruling party.

The Opposition parties have latched onto the move to contest from two seats — Chamundeshwari in Mysuru and Badami in Bagalkot — to corner both Siddaramaiah and his party. The BJP and the JD(S) have been claiming that the chief minister has developed cold feet in Chamundeshwari and hence had chosen the second and ‘safer’ seat, Badami, for himself.

The two parties appear to have joined forces both in Chamundeshwari and Badami. While the saffron party is fielding a political greenhorn S R Gopal Rao in order to help JD(S) candidate G T Deve Gowda in Chamundeshwari, it is said that JD(S) candidate in Badami Hanumantha Mavinamarad will either withdraw from the fray or become neutral in the contest.

Gopal Rao is a Brahmin and is unlikely to split the Vokkaliga votes, which is crucial for the JD(S) in Chamundeshwari. It is actually the Vokkaliga consolidation that is worrying Siddaramaiah in Chamundeshwari. Similarly, Mavinamarad is a Lingayat, a dominant community in Badami and the BJP does not want the community votes to get split. The BJP is yet to name its candidate for the Badami seat.

Besides, the Opposition parties have been repeatedly claiming that the chief minister’s defeat is imminent in both places — a move aimed at denting the morale of the Congress camp. This was one of the reasons why senior Congress leaders had opposed the plan to contest from two seats, sources in the Congress said.Party veteran Mallikarjun Kharge had reportedly expressed his fear in this regard at a recent AICC central election committee meeting held in New Delhi
to finalise candidates.

KPCC chief G Parameshwara had openly expressed fear that the party would face a setback if the chief minister faced the election with insecurity.

That the chief minister was uncomfortable, if not nervous, in Chamundeshwari was quite evident with his frequent change in stand on contesting from two seats. He had initially denied having the thought of contesting from two seats.

This has come in handy for the BJP and the JD(S) to project the Congress as a losing side. The Congress camp, which was beaming with confidence showcasing achievements of the government, has of late become defensive. The issue has also, to some extent, shifted the focus of the election debate to Siddaramaiah being jittery.

Moreover, the Opposition parties are said to be aiming at weakening the Congress’ campaign by tying Siddaramaiah down to his home district Mysuru. The chief minister, who is supposed to lead the campaign, has been camping in Mysuru ever since the Congress announced its candidates last week. So much so that senior party leaders, including AICC general secretary in-charge of Karnataka K C Venugopal, were forced to travel all the way to Mysuru to meet Siddaramaiah last week.

It is said that the entire responsibility of leading the campaign will be on Congress president Rahul Gandhi. Siddaramaiah, however, has been claiming that his candidature from Badami will help the party win more seats in north Karnataka.

Political analyst Prof Harish Ramaswamy said being a seasoned politician Siddaramaiah should not have taken the decision to contest from Badami at the last minute. “He is sending out a wrong signal and it is perceived as though the Congress is not confident of winning the polls. The BJP, especially Prime Minister Narendra Modi, will make it a big issue and try to corner the Congress.”

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