As high-voltage campaigning ends on Monday, the stage is set for a three-cornered contest between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Indian National Congress (INC) and the Janata Dal (Secular) in the Karnataka Assembly elections.
While the BJP is making an all-out effort to repeat the success of the 2018 Assembly elections and emerge as the single largest party in the forthcoming Assembly polls scheduled for May 10, it faces a tough contest from both the Congress and the JD(S) in many constituencies.
Some key contests this year could see opposition parties displace each other, or the saffron party gaining a foothold in previously opposition-controlled constituencies.
At least half a dozen assembly constituencies in Karnataka are the center of attention as they will see a fight among veteran politicians and high profile candidates.
Nail-biting electoral battle is foreseen at some constituencies including Kanakapura, Varuna, Shiggaon, Chikkamagaluru, Hubballi-Dharwad Central and Channaptana in the state.
The high-profile Kanakapura constituency comes under the Bengaluru (Rural) Lok Sabha seat and is the home turf of Karnataka Pradesh Congree Committee (KPCC) president and Vokkaliga strongman DK Shivakumar. The Congress stalwart — nick-named ‘Kanakapura Rock’ — has won this constituency every time since its inception in 2008 after delimitation, before that he represented the erstwhile Sathanur seat four times.
In 2018, Shivakumar won the seat by defeating Narayana Gowda of the Janata Dal (Secular) with a margin of 79,909 votes.
This time, Shivakumar will be facing revenue minister and BJP leader R Ashoka, who is considered to be the Vokkaliga face of the party. The JD(S) has fielded BR Ramchandra as party candidate from the constituency.
Ashoka is also contesting from Padmanabhanagar, a BJP stronghold. A sitting MLA from Padmanabhanagar, Shoka is seen as the BJP’s most formidable candidate in the last several elections in this constituency, where the saffron party’s vote percentage has been less than 4 per cent.
The BJP leader told PTI that he is in the fray from Kanakapura on the directions of the party, and his task was to win the seat, along with building the party in the constituency, where it has virtually no presence.
The challenge for Ashoka is to make “treasure out of trash.” In the 2013 election, the saffron party secured only about 1,600-odd votes, while in 2018b it was about 6,000 votes.
While Shivakumar remains confident about his win and his supporters have high hopes for his future as Chief Minister, the BJP seeks to tap into the discontent and build its presence in an area where it has been virtually non-existent.
The constituency of Varuna in Mysuru district will see Housing Minister and influential Lingayat leader V Somanna take Congress strongman and former chief minister Siddaramaiah head on in his home turf. Severty five-year-old Siddaramaiah, who is fighting his last election, had represented the seat in 2008 and 2013. The seat, which is a bastion for Siddaramaiah’s family, saw his son Yathindra Siddaramaiah winning the previous polls in 2018.
Of the total electorate of 230,00 in Varuna, nearly 60,000 voters are Lingayats; Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) have around 51,000 voters; and 20,000 Kurubas and 15,000 Vokkaligas are the other significant communities.
It is a tricky battle, as in fielding Somanna, the BJP has attempted to take away Lingayat voters.
The Sangh Parivar has put all its energy behind the five-time MLA, who has represented Govindaraj Nagar in Bengaluru, from where he has been moved out for the first time.
According to 72-year-old Somanna, he was not willing to fight election this time and wanted to retire but the BJP top leadership asked him to fight from Varuna and Chamarajanagar segments and he could not say no to them.
“What else can I say when the Prime Minister asked me to contest from Varuna? I agreed to it,” Somanna said, as quoted by news agency PTI.
Incumbent Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai is seeking re-election for the fourth consecutive time from the Shiggaon constituency, which has a sizeable Muslim population.
The 63-year-old CM, who is the son of former Karnataka chief minister and Janata Parivar veteran late SR Bommai, had won the seat in 2018 by defeating Congress candidate Sayed Azeempeer Khadri with a margin of 9,260 votes. This was Bommai’s third win in a row from Shiggaon since 2008.
The 2013 and 2008 polls also witnessed a close battle between Bommai and Khadri. But Bommai emerged victorious and won the polls by a margin of 9,503 votes and 12,862 votes, respectively.
Shiggaon, which was a Congress bastion till 1999, witnessed drastic changes after the JD(S) and independent candidates won the seat in 1999 and 2004 respectively.
While the general consensus is that Basavaraj Bommai will win on the basis of the developmental works he has carried out in his constituency, including for minorities, Congress candidate Yasir Ahmed Khan Pathan could end up giving a tough fight to the BJP leader.
The Congress had nominated president of Anjuman-e-Islam of Hubballi Mohammad Yusuf Savanur against Bommai but had to later replace him by fielding Pathan following protests from local cadres.
Shashidhar Yeligar is the JDS candidate.
The constituency has about 75,000 Veerashaiva Lingayats population, with the sub-sect of Bommai, making up for around 15,000 voters. Before election dates were announced, Bomma ipromised to turn the seat into a model taluk.
After Indira Gandhi was routed into the post-Emergency General Election, and thrown out of office, she chose to contest again in October 1978 in the Chikkamagaluru Lok Sabha by-election and the constituency saw Indira Gandhi’s ‘rebirth’.
The Chikkamagaluru win was a turning point for the towering Congress leader as in November 1978 she returned to parliament within a year of her defeat.
In Karnataka, Indira Gandhi not only found her own revival but also the re-birth of the Congress party.
While campaigning in the constituency, Congress leaders Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi have been invoking the legacy of their grandmother and former prime minister Indira Gandhi.
The Chikkamagaluru constituency was a Congress bastion until BJP’s CT Ravi started winning since 2004.
This time, the coffee haven of India, Chikkamagaluru is set to witness a high-voltage contest between BJP General Secretary CT Ravi, Thimmashetty of the JD(S) and HD Thammaiah of the Congress.
In 2018, Ravi won the election by defeating Shankar BL of the Congress with a margin of 26314 votes.
This time, Ravi will be contesting against his one-time Aide Thammaiah who quit the BJP and joined the Congress. Thammaiah was Chikkamagaluru constituency’s district convenor of the BJP and is a Lingayat, a community that has around 40,000 votes in Chikkamagaluru. Vokkaligas, the community Ravi belongs to, have around 20,000 20,000 votes. The constituency also has 45,000 SC/STs, 30,000 Muslims and 23,000 Kurubas.
Belonging to the Vokkaliga community, Ravi, a former student leader in the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), rose through the ranks to become an MLA from Chikkamagaluru. He was a minister in the BS Yediyurappa cabinet when BJP chief JP Nadda asked him to work for the party. Ravi accepted the new role and resigned from the cabinet in 2020. He has stuck to the Hindutva agenda by protesting against halal food, hijab, Tipu Sultan, and has allegedly given several hate speeches against Muslims.
An epic battle is on the cards in Hubballi-Dharwad Central with former Karnataka Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar fighting to retain his traditional stronghold, albeit as a Congress candidate, and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) going all guns blazing to beat him and send a message that the party is supreme. Shettar quit the BJP on 16 April, and resigned as MLA, after being denied a ticket for the Assembly elections.
Shettar, who is responsible for the growth of the BJP in Uttara Kannada, had won from the Hubballi-Dharwad central constituency in 2018, beating Congress candidate Dr Mahesh Nalwad with a margin of 21,306 votes, marking his sixth win in the Assembly elections.
Shettar is confident that the Congress will get a full majority and form the government in Karnataka.
“The BJP has disrespected me. My self-respect has been hurt and only for that reason I went to the Congress. I have no expectations from the Congress party. I only expect self-respect and honor. My position will be only of an MLA. I will work for the people,” Shettar told PTI on the campaign trail.
A staunch RSS man, Shettar was part of the Jan Sangh and BJP for several decades before severing his ties with the party.
Mahesh Tenginkai, the BJP candidate from Hubbali-Dharwad Central seat, has pitched his high-voltage battle against Shettar as a ‘guru-shishya’ contest.
Shettar, however, said: “He (Tengikai) is saying that I am his guru. His guru is in Delhi. He is not my disciple.” Shettar’s jibe was apparently directed at BJP’s general secretary BL Santhosh, who he has blamed for being denied a ticket.
The JD(S) has fielded Siddalingeshgow da Mahantavadeyar as party candidate from the constituency.
Famous for its wooden toys and sericulture, Channapatna is a political hotseat and promises an engaging battle between JD(S) leader and two-time Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy and former Minister and BJP candidate CP Yogeshwar.
The Congress has fielded Gangadhar S as its candidate.
Yogeshwara has represented the constituency five times since 1999 as an independent, and also from the Congress, BJP and Samajwadi Party (SP). He faced defeat in the 2018 polls, with Kumaraswamy entering the poll fray in Channapatna.
Kumaraswamy had then beaten Yogeshwara by 21,530 votes.
In the 2013 polls, Yogeshwara as an SP nominee beat Kumaraswamy’s wife Anitha Kumaraswamy of the JD(S) by 6,464 votes.
Both Yogeshwara and Kumaraswamy belong to the dominant Vokkaliga community in the region, and had links to the film industry. While Kumaraswamy had been a film producer, distributor and exhibitor, Yogeshwara had acted in a few films.
Though Kumaraswamy is accused of being inaccessible and not being present on the ground on a day-to-day basis compared to Yogeshwara, he is popular being a former Chief Minister and people here foresee him occupying the coveted post once again this time.
Kumaraswamy is appreciated for his pro-poor approach, farm loan waiver and development of roads and other infrastructure, as reported by PTI.