How the BJP's choice of candidates in Karnataka may dent Modi's dream

The BJP's hope of winning 20 seats in Karnataka may be a distant one given the disarray over the choice of candidates.

hidden March 19, 2014 19:42:23 IST
How the BJP's choice of candidates in Karnataka may dent Modi's dream

by Aravind S Kamal

Bangalore: At least 20 seats out of 28 – that is the target set by the BJP’s central leadership for its Karnataka unit in the upcoming election this elections. But given how the party has floundered in selecting its candidates in traditional strongholds, that tally appears highly optimistic.

In addition, the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) are expected to put up a fight. A low tally from the state could put the chances of Narendra Modi becoming the prime minister in jeopardy.

The ‘Modi wave’, which the BJP claims is omnipresent in Karnataka, seems to be restricted to the BJP-dominated constituencies. During the last year’s assembly elections, Modi addressed political rallies in three key constituencies of the BJP, unfortunately, the party lost heavily in all three.

If there is a wave at all, it is visible only in the urban centres. Voting in the hinterland will be dominated by local issues such as farmers’ problems, a crash in prices of areca-nut, and encroachment of forests.

How the BJPs choice of candidates in Karnataka may dent Modis dream

Can Yeddyurappa and other BJP candidates turn the tide in favour of Modi?

However, the party’s poster boy from Karnataka, Ananth Kumar, who is pitted against Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani from Bangalore South, is confident that the ‘Modi wave’ is very much evident in Karnataka.

"People are disillusioned with one decade of misrule of the Congress at the Centre. Corruption, internal security issues, inflation and rise in prices of essential commodities were the achievements of the Congress. People will wholeheartedly vote for in BJP and in favour of Modi," he said.

The ground reality appears to be different. In Mysore, where the BJP has an upper-hand, the party has fielded journalist Prathap Simha, whose candidature has come as a surprise for everyone, including the local cadre.

"Prathap Simha is a well-known columnist. We have nothing against him. But why is the BJP ignoring local leaders? The party workers are not supporting his candidature," said Maruthi Rao, BJP’s Mysore city unit leader, said.

The aspirant for the party ticket, CH Vijayashankara, who lost to the Congress’ H Vishwanath from Mysore in the previous parliamentary polls, has been asked to contest from Hassan against the powerful former PM HD Deve Gowda. Vijayashankara is reluctant to contest from Hassan and wants to enter the fray from Mysore and has been adamant about it.

The return of former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa to the BJP has undoubtedly bolstered the party’s prospects in the Lingayat-dominant North Karnataka. However, he is locked in a battle against the JD(S) candidate Geetha Shivarajkumar in the Shimoga Parliamentary seat. Geetha is the daughter of former CM S Bangarappa and the daughter-in-law of Karnataka’s greatest cine star Dr Rajkumar.

Her husband (Shivarajkumar) and brother-in-law (Puneeth Rajkumar) are the reigning superstars of Kannada cinema. If the two brothers campaign for Geetha in Shimoga, it could be disastrous for Yeddyurappa, as they could polarize the community votes in favour of the JD(S). As a result, Yeddyurappa has been left with hardly any time to campaign for the BJP in other parts of the state.

In the Udupi-Chikmagalur constituency, another BJP bastion, which shot to national prominence because of the Datta Peetha row spearheaded by local leader and former minister CT Ravi, the party has given ticket to Yeddyurappa’s confidante Shobha Karandlaje. The entire local BJP cadre has rebelled against her, as they wanted Ravi to contest the polls.

In Bangalore North, the party has fielded former CM DV Sadananda Gowda, whose candidature was openly opposed by local strongman and former deputy CM R Ashoka. Both are Vokkaligas and a victory for Gowda could undermine the stature of Ashoka in the constituency. In the politically fragile Bellary, the BJP has brought-back B Sriramulu, who hardly enjoys support of the local leaders.

"There is too much of confusion and misgivings among the party workers of the BJP at the grassroots level. It is clear that the party has taken a risk in six constituencies by angering the local leaders. Towards the end, if they forget their differences and work in favour of the BJP, the party may win in 15-16 segments. But if the BJP does not get its act together, it will be an average performance by the BJP in Karnataka,” Political historian A Veerappa said.

In the previous parliamentary polls, the BJP won from a record 19 constituencies. Repeating the feat could be a gargantuan task.

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