BJP experiment in B'lore South may be risky

This election, the BJP is banking on an experiment - 28-year-old RSS ideologue Tejasvi Surya - to retain the prestigious Bangalore South Lok Sabha constituency that union minister, late Ananth Kumar, represented for a record six consecutive times since 1996.

Much as the BJP reckons Bangalore South to be a safe seat, Surya is facing a fight from the Congress that has fielded senior leader B K Hariprasad, an old-time Bengalurean. Such is the trust the party has on Hariprasad that his candidature came in response to speculation that Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself could contest from Bangalore South. In November 2018, the death of Kumar, who was often regarded as the Delhi face of the Karnataka BJP, left a void that needed to be filled.

His wife Tejaswini Ananth Kumar was widely expected to fill the void, but the BJP central leadership sprang a midnight surprise by announcing the ticket to Surya, thereby establishing its stand against ‘Parivarvad’ (dynasty politics) in a seat where it could afford to do so.  

Surya’s pick, according to BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav, is an experiment of inducting “fresh blood” into politics. While the experiment left Tejaswini sulking, BJP legislators R Ashoka (Padmanabhanagar) and V Somanna (Govindarajanagar), who are crucial for Surya’s win, aired their disgruntlement publicly. It took BJP national president Amit Shah, no less, to hold a roadshow in order to bring the party cadre together in Surya’s support.

While Surya’s selection, last-minute announcement left him with little time, the same is true for Hariprasad. In 1999, Hariprasad contested unsuccessfully against Kumar. “Even then, I had just 14 days left,” Hariprasad said.

Surya’s campaign narrative revolves around achievements of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, dovetailed with his own vision for the city. But ultimately, the message from the BJP is that a vote for Surya is a vote for Modi.

For Hariprasad, who belongs to the Billava (OBC) community, the campaign revolves around Modi’s failures, coupled with his promise of long-term planning for the city’s development, especially for localities such as Bommanahalli. Also, the Congress is targeting Surya for his “misogynist” and “conservative” views.

Up until 2009, Ananth Kumar’s victory margin was decreasing till the Modi wave in 2014 helped him win by over two lakh votes against the Congress’ Nandan Nilekani. This time, it remains to be seen if Modi can help Surya rise.

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BJP experiment in B'lore South may be risky

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