Press Trust of India
Bangalore, 6 March
Principal players ruling the Congress and the BJP have gone into overdrive, scrambling to finalise the list of candidates to face the high-stake battle in the Lok Sabha polls just six weeks from now.
The BJP seems to be ahead of the Congress as it has finalised the names of candidates of at least 21 among the 28 Lok Sabha seats up for grabs in the state, where it is going the whole hog to replicate the 2009 success that yielded 19 seats to it. It will be a single-phase poll in Karnataka on 17 April.
Election preparedness was launched in right earnest by the Congress but it is still grappling with the list of candidates with the KPCC president, G Paramshwara, indicating that the names are expected to be finalised soon.
Having re-established its hold with a spectacular victory in the 8 May Assembly polls last year that brought it to power after a long hiatus, the Congress is aiming at maximising the advantage and is even toying with the idea of fielding some state ministers.
player JDS of former Prime Minister HD Devegowda which pushed the BJP to third place in terms of percentage of votes in the assembly polls, has said it would announce its list of candidates for all the 28 constituencies in two or three days.
Its state unit president and son of Deve Gowda, HD Kumaraswamy, whose party is accused of practising dynastic politics, said JDS had not yet taken any decision on fielding his wife Anitha Kumaraswamy or son Nikhil Gowda.
In the 2009 polls, the BJP had grabbed 19 seats, the Congress six and the JDS three in a clear-cut three-way contest, a big picture that will manifest in the current polls too.
Brought to its heels with a humiliating defeat in the assembly polls that saw collapse of its first-ever government in the south India, the BJP has this time got its act together in time, having ensured the return of former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa back to its fold.
Mr Yeddyurappa, who played a spoiler with 10 per cent vote share, though winning only six of the 224 assembly seats, had walked out of the BJP and formed his own outfit Karnataka Janatha Paksha (KJP) which he merged with the parent party recently.
The Lingayat strongman is now trying to establish his hold within the BJP and bargaining hard to get re-entry for some of his supporters and state leaders as the party seems to be disinclined to open the door for them.
There is also a move to field Mr Yeddyurappa for the Lok Sabha polls from Shimoga, a seat currently held by his son, Ragavendra, to shore up BJP's prospects.
The BJP received a boost yesterday when the BSR Congress president, B Sriramulu, announced his party's decision to merge with it “unconditionally”, two years after he walked out of the party.
Mr Sriramulu, once considered a trusted lieutenant of the mining barons from Bellary, the Reddy brothers, Janardhana and Karunakara, is expected to add incremental value to the BJP as he is considered to be an important leader of the Valmiki community with its own sphere of influence.
For the BJP, the exercise of finalising candidates has not been smooth for several constituencies, including Bangalore north, for which former Chief Minister DV Sadananda Gowda and former deputy chief minister R Ashok were contenders and were even engaged in an ugly public spat. Mr Ashok, however, withdrew from the race, preferring to be in state politics.
The election heat in Karnataka started in the last month itself with the BJP's prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, and Rahul Gandhi hitting the campaign trail. Mr Gandhi held a roadshow covering several districts in the old Mysore region. The BJP is banking on what it calls “Na Mo magic” to fill its kitty with at least 20 seats, while for the Congress it is a hard battle to reverse the 2009
Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has a lot at stake in the Lok Sabha polls as the outcome would be a litmus test for him to consolidate his position within the party in which it is not a cosy existence for him.
Filing of nominations will begin on 19 March and the last date for filing of papers is 26 March. Scrutiny will be taken up on 27 March and the last date for withdrawal of nominations is 29 March.