The Karnataka game plan
With about three weeks to go before the Karnataka Assembly election is held on May 12, political parties have finalised their list of candidates and nominations have been duly filed. The electioneering is at its peak, with a range of top leaders from the BJP and the ruling Congress holding extensive rallies across the state. Nervousness in running through all the parties and there are deep resentments over the distribution of party tickets. While 11 Congress candidates are said to be contesting from more than one seat, the BJP camp is angry over the denial of party tickets to some probable candidates. The Karnataka Assembly, with 225 seats, is a crucial election for both the BJP and the Congress. The BJP must put up a good show to maintain its winning streak till the 2019 general elections in the country. The Congress has to retain its power in the state to reflect that the party is resilient and capable of fighting back. The Karnataka election results are important in how they will impact the national politics in a more definite term. Whoever wins the election will have a psychological advantage in the elections that follow. And, there are important assembly elections due in the coming months of 2018. They include assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. In all these states, the BJP is in power and an anti-incumbency factor affecting the prospects of the ruling party, cannot be denied. If BJP wins the Karnataka election, psychologically it will be better slated to contest the elections in the other states. But, if the Congress is able to retain power in the state, it will gain confidence when approaching the assembly elections that are scheduled to be held before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. In the political rallies conducted by the top leaders so far, national issues rather than local issues have dominated the discourse. The Congress has been trying to corner the BJP on the issue of Dalit politics. The party has blamed the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi for being anti-Dalit. The BJP in its reply says that the party has accorded the highest respect to Dr BR Ambedkar and is following his ideals while the Congress had jettisoned Ambedkar for good. The Congress has also raised questions over the safety and security of Dalits, minorities, women and children, stating that no one is safe under the NDA government. On its part, the party has accorded the status of a separate religion to the Lingayat community. This move helps the Congress consolidate its grip on the Dalit and minority votes. Meanwhile, the last date for filing the nominations for the Karnataka Assembly election has passed and some of the most probable candidates have not found a mention in the party ticket list declared by the BJP. State BJP chief BS Yeddyurappa announced that his son BY Vijayendra will not contest from the Varuna Assembly seat. Another close confidante of the state BJP chief, Shobha Karandlaje too has been denied a ticket to contest from Yeshwanthpur in Bengaluru. Many leaders feared that she could be a potential chief ministerial candidate at some point. Shobha is currently an MP from Udupi-Chickmagalur. The announcement of the denial of ticket to Yeddyurappa's son led to angry reactions from several party workers. They threw chairs and created a ruckus at the party event. However, BY Vijayendra has been appointed as State General Secretary, Yuva Morcha. "His addition will greatly boost the party cadre and strengthen our organisation in the Old Mysuru region," the party announced. He is likely to campaign extensively in the Old Mysuru periphery.
Chief Minister Siddaramaiah's son Dr Yathindra is the Congress candidate in Varuna. Siddaramaiah is contesting from neighbouring Chamundeshwari and Badami in north Karnataka. He has previously represented Varuna after it became a constituency in 2008. Yeddyurappa's elder son BY Raghavendra is the sitting member of the assembly from Shikaripura in Shivamogga district. Now, state BJP chief Yeddyurappa is contesting from Shikaripura. The denial of ticket to Vijayendra hints at an act of lobbying by the detractors of Yeddyurappa. For long, parliamentary affairs minister Ananth Kumar has been considered a rival of Yeddyurappa. The BJP central leadership appears to be propping up Yeddyurappa as the chief ministerial candidate. At the same time, it is also giving ample space to his opponents. Reddy brothers and their associate B Sriramulu are being favoured. Sriramulu will contest from Badami against CM Siddaramaiah. This will be Sriramulu's second seat of contestation.