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BJP fields 72 new faces for Karnataka polls in bold move to retain power

Karnataka CM Basavaraj Bommai (Pic Credit-IANS)

Bengaluru: In a concerted bid to beat the effects of ‘anti-incumbency’, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has adopted a bold and innovative approach in the selection of candidates to the Karnataka Assembly elections slated for May 10.

As the candidates of different parties rushed to file their papers before the nominations closed on Thursday, it was evident that in the BJP, a lot of strategic thinking and calculations had gone into the final selection of 224 candidates and it was for the first time, any major political party had taken steps to strike at the very roots of “vested interests” and provide opportunities to the newcomers.

As the Congress stuck to its traditional approach of appeasing various communities and the Janata Dal (Secular), as usual, after filling up the family slots, kept its doors open till the last minute to disgruntled legislators from other parties, the BJP surprised its opponents by dropping six ministers or former ministers and 21 sitting MLAs while including as many as 72 new faces, which is one-third of the membership of the House.

Shettar, Savadi ‘star losers’

Among the “star losers” dropped from the list were former chief minister Jagadish Shettar and former deputy chief minister Laxman Savadi, both of whom were lapped up by the Congress as “prize catches” and immediately given party tickets. As both of them belong to the dominant Lingayat community, the Congress is trying to build a narrative that a large number of Lingayats would switch over to the Congress as the BJP has “insulted and humiliated its tall leaders.”

Political observers have noted that if they were such influential leaders, at least some of their followers would have resigned from the BJP and joined the Congress. Neither a single BJP legislator nor a corporator has followed them, causing some embarrassment to the Congress which was hoping to involve them widely in the campaigning to achieve at least a “2 to 3 per cent” increase in its vote share. On the contrary, there are serious doubts whether Shettar and Savadi, who have had a long association with the BJP, will be able to even retain their own seats contesting on the ‘Hand’ symbol.

The BJP has also dropped from the list former ministers like KS Eshwarappa, Aravind Limbavali, A Ramadas, Ayanur Manjunath and AB Malaka Reddy and controversial legislators like Madal Virupakshappa (who faced Lokayukta raid), Raghupathi Bhat, Lalji Menden, R Shankar, AS Angara, Baburao Chinchansoor and SA Ravindranath, which many of them accepted gracefully while two or three left BJP and joined the Congress or the JD(S).

One family, one ticket

The BJP has also adopted a rigorous policy of ‘one ticket per family’. Former minister Anand Singh has been replaced by his son Siddartha Singh, Aravind Limbavali has made way for his wife Manjula, Ramachandra Gowda’s son Saptagiri Gowda is being fielded from Gandhinagar, Bengaluru, H Nagappa’s son, Preetham Gowda is contesting from Hanur, Marilinge Gowda’s son Gowtham Gowda will try to retain his seat at Hassan, Y Sampangi’s daughter Ashwini will contest from KGF and Ratna Mamani, wife of late Deputy Speaker Anand Mamani has been given Soundatti-Yallamma seat.

The two occasions on which the BJP crossed the hundred mark in 2008 and 2018 but fell short of a majority by three seats and nine seats respectively, it had to pay a big price to form the government with the help of ‘defectors’ which had its own consequences.

In order to avoid a similar situation this time, the BJP has tactically given tickets to most of the legislators who came from the Congress and the JD(S) and won the by-elections on BJP symbol in 2019. Candidates like Dr Sudhakar, Ramesh Jarkiholi, ST Somashekar, Byrathi Basavaraj, KC Narayana Gowda, Muniratna, BC Patil, Shivaram Hebbar, Mahesh Kumathahalli, Srimant Patil and K Gopalaiah are not only capable of retaining their seats, but some of them can influence two to three seats adjoining their constituency.

Focus on Old Mysuru

The BJP is hoping to make big gains in the Old Mysuru area and Bengaluru city where its performance in 2018 was below par. Union home minister Amit Shah is camping for a week in the Old Mysuru region which accounts for 61 seats and the BJP only managed to win 11 seats last time. BS Yediyurappa’s son BY Vijayendra, who was the campaign manager during 2019 by-elections helped the party win both Sira and KR Pete constituencies for the first time.

In the next three weeks, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to address around 20 public meetings and hold eight road shows while other national leaders like UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath, Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma and a host of central ministers are also scheduled to campaign across the state.

If BJP is able to retain Karnataka, it will create history because no ruling party has won two consecutive terms for 38 years since Ramakrishna Hegde-led Janata Party returned power in 1985.