Bengaluru: The south Karnataka region has always been the turf of the Congress and the JD-S in the state. The JD-S derived its core strength from the region and formed governments.
With the BJP turning its focus towards the region and following the series of steps taken by the BJP leaders especially Union Home Minister Amit Shah, the area is for the first time witnessing a triangular fight for supremacy between the Congress, the BJP and the JD-S.
The BJP made its presence felt in the region by winning the maximum number of seats in Bengaluru city. In districts like Hassan and Mandya, where the JD-S used to sweep all the seats, the BJP has managed to win one seat each and the party has made its ambitions very clear.
On the other hand, the Congress is equally strong in the region. Presently, the party’s 32 MLAs come from this region including Bengaluru city.
The south Karnataka region includes the districts of Mysuru, Mandya, Tumakuru, Hassan, Chamarajanagar, Kolar, Bengaluru Rural, Kolar, Chikkaballapura and Ramnagara besides Bengaluru city. The region has 86 Assembly seats and there are 28 seats in Bengaluru city alone.
In the last elections, the Congress won 12 seats in Bengaluru. The BJP won 15 and the JD-S got two seats but lost one seat to ‘Operation Lotus’. This time, the Congress wants to win 18 seats and the BJP wants to increase its tally to 20 seats. The JD-S is targeting over six seats in Bengaluru alone.
Barring Bengaluru, in other districts of the region, the JD-S won 24 seats, the BJP stood at 14 and the Congress bagged 20 seats. The JD-S had swept all the seven seats in Mandya but lost the K.R. Pete constituency in by-polls to ‘Operation Lotus’.
Sources said that in Bengaluru Rural, the BJP which has not won any seat out of the four is strategising to bag all the four seats. The close contest between the Congress and the BJP in Kanakapura and Varuna constituencies has passed on a strong message to the masses in the region.
The BJP has inaugurated a 108-feet-tall Nadaprabhu Kempe Gowda statue and called it a statue of prosperity in the premises of Bengaluru airport. Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated it at a mega rally. This is being done to reach out to the people in the region considered the Vokkaliga heartland. Vokkaligas play an important and influential role in the region.
The BJP government has dedicated a 108-feet-tall statue of Male Mahadeshwara in Chamarajanagar district. Lakhs of devotees cutting across caste lines revere Male Mahadeshwara god. PM Modi inaugurated Bengaluru-Mysuru Expressway and Amit Shah had inaugurated a mega dairy at Mandya.
Following the slew of measures and outreach the BJP has made its presence felt in the region. Through ‘Operation Lotus’ now it has Vokkaliga faces in K. Sudhakar, minister for health, K. Gopalaiah, minister for excise, besides minister for revenue R. Ashoka and minister for higher education, IT and BT C.N. Ashwath Narayan, who are original BJP leaders.
The Congress has projected D.K. Shivakumar as the CM candidate. Shivakumar hailing from the Vokkaliga community has appealed to the people to give him a chance this time like the way they rallied behind former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda’s family. The Congress had taken out a padayatra urging the BJP governments at the Centre and the state to commence work on the Mekedatu project immediately to provide water to Bengaluru city.
On the other hand the JD-S is brimming with confidence after the rebellion and defections in the national parties and is hoping to form the government. Former PM Deve Gowda is campaigning at the age of 89 and proclaiming that he will bring the JD-S to power.
Asha Krishnaswamy, a senior journalist, told IANS that south Karnataka looks bad for the BJP. “The picture is hazy in south Karnataka. The picture still looks bad for the BJP. The saffron party made a lot of noise when PM Modi came but later it has subsided.”
“Right from the fielding of candidates, that aura has not been created. The party is banking on Bengaluru but the AAP is also there. It is not as easy as it used to be for the BJP, though the party has an upper hand. However, it is not comfortable. The anti-incumbency factor is also there,” she stated.
“We don’t have local body representatives in Bengaluru and the pulse of the people is not known. It is not known how the voters perceive the ruling party. There was an infrastructural collapse in Bengaluru and people didn’t know who was the Bengaluru in-charge minister. In many constituencies like Kanakapura, they want to keep the party workers active. In Kanakapura they have taken 3 per cent of the vote share,” Krishnaswamy said.
By M.K. Ashoka