Karnataka Electoral Scene
The political parties had caste, not the issues in mind,
while selecting candidates and electioneering.
By A Staff Writer
The elections to the 28 Lok Sabha constituencies in Karnataka concluded in two phases. On April 18 polling was held in 14 seats in southern Karnataka comprising the region of the old princely Mysore State while in the second phase on April 23, another 14 seats in northern Karnataka went to polls. Northern Karnataka has most areas which were carved out of the Kannada-speaking regions of Bombay Principality and districts from Nizam’s State of Hyderabad.
Though the Congress and the Janata Dal Secular (JDS), partners in the State Government, were able to firm up the alliance for the Lok Sabha polls, bonhomie was missing during the electioneering. The spirit of alliance visible at the top refused to seep down to the ground level among the cadres of the two parties. Yet the alliance hopes to have a better harvest of the seats than the BJP which won 17 out 28 seats from the State in 2014.
Incidentally, Congress as the major partner displayed much magnanimity in conceding eight seats to the JDS, of which one, i.e., Bangalore North, came back to it after JDS failed to find a suitable candidate for itself. The alliance between the two parties has made it a straight contest in 27 constituencies between the BJP and the alliance candidates. However, the BJP is supporting film actress Sumalatha in Mandya constituency after the alliance decided that JDS will field Devegowda’s grandson Nikhil Kumaraswami as its candidate. The seat had been won by Sumalatha’s husband and film actor Ambareesh in 2014 for Congress. He died in December 2018. Sumalatha waited upon the Congress for quite sometime to be nominated, only to be disappointed.
The alliance has come as a Godsend for the Devegowda family to promote its dynastic hold over the JDS. Devegowda himself is fighting from Tumkur and another grandson Prajwal Revanna is fighting from Hassan. All three constituencies are considered to be Vokkaliga bastion with considerable following for the Gowda family. They are quite likely to be won by the party.
Sons of former CMs
Shimoga has had an interesting contest with sons of two former chief ministers facing each other. Here the JDS has fielded Madhu Bangarappa against sitting MP, B. Y. Raghavendra, son of former BJP chief minister Yeddyurappa. In the neighbouring Chikamagalur-Udupi constituency, Shobha Karndalaje, close confidante of Yeddyurappa is pitted against Pramode Madhawaraj of Congress. Shobha seems to have an edge.
Metropolitant Bangalore has three seats. All three were won by the BJP last time. Bangalore South was won six times in a row by late Union Minister Ananthkumar who died in December last year. His widow Tejaswini was aspiring for the BJP ticket but the choice fell upon Tejasvi, a young advocate. It has annoyed the Brahmins in the elite constituency. But he is all likely to retain it for the BJP. Only Muslim nominee of the Congress Rizwan Arshad has been fielded from Bangalore Central against sitting BJP MP P. C. Mohan. Last time Rizwan lost narrowly against Mohan. Bangalore North has predominance of Vokkaliga voters. Two Gowdas, Union Minister Sadananda Gowda and State Minister Byregowda are facing each other. It will be hazardous to make a guess about the outcome although the latter has an upperhand.
Arithmetic and Chemistry
The BJP has a solid grip on the Mangalore seat too where it should have no difficulty in retaining it, given the polarizing campaign it has been running for decades. In several South Karnataka seats such as Chamrajnagar, Mysore, Kolar, Chitradurga etc, though arithmetic may favour the alliance, chemistry between the two parties does not. Only last year the Congress and the JDS fought a tough battle on the turf as bitter foes.
The BJP had a free run of several constituencies in North Karnataka in 2014. With Little influence of the JDS in those areas, the contest is almost straight between Congress and the BJP. In Kalburgi (previously Gulbarga), veteran Congressman Mallikarjuna Kharge sits pretty and has remained undefeated for a record eleven times, of which twice for the Lok Sabha. Even Bidar is considered a safe seat for the Congress where Karnataka Congress President Eshwar Khandre is pitted against sitting BJP MP Bhagwanth Khuba. Ballary was won by the BJP in 2014 but lost to Congress in byelection in 2017. Veena Kashappanavar is the only woman candidate of the Congress who has been fielded from Bagalkote. She belongs to one sect among the Lingayaths.
In seats like Vijayapura, Dharward, Davangere, Koppala, and Belgaum, Lingayaths form sizeable chunk of voters. The BJP has worked assiduously to woo them. But the former Siddramaiah Government passed a legislation favouring a section of them. It recommended a religious minority status for the community which follows the 12th century saint Basavanna. It is to be seen how this factor works in the Lok Sabha constituencies. During Assembly elections it did not have much effect and majority of the Lingayaths still voted for the BJP.
Caste preferences have dominated the selection of candidates and campaigning. The electioneering was sans any issues although the northern districts are under the grip of severe drought and water scarcity. Though Karnataka was the pioneering state in sanctioning private engineering, medical and other professional educational colleges, nearly all employment opportunities exist only in and around Bangalore. Life in districts and their headquarters is lackluster. The successive governments have failed to diversify development and employment opportunities. Industries and former industrial hubs such as Bhadravathi and Davangere have shut down one after another. The alliance did not do enough to raise Rafale deal issue and denial of opportunities to the Bangalore based HAL in a manner it deserved.