Bangalore: Principal players ruling Congress and BJP have gone into overdrive, scrambling to finalise the list of candidates to face the high-stake battle in Lok Sabha polls just six weeks from now.
BJP seems to be ahead of Congress as it has finalised the names of candidates for at least 21 of the 28 Lok Sabha seats up for grabs in the state, where it is going the whole hog to replicate the 2009 success that yielded 19 seats to it.
It will be a single-phase poll in Karnataka on April 17.
Election preparedness was launched in right earnest by Congress but it is still grappling with the list of candidates with KPCC President G Paramshwara indicating that the names are expected to be finalised sometime soon.
Having re-established its hold with a spectacular victory in the May 8 Assembly polls last year that brought it to power after a long hiatus, Congress is aiming at maximising the advantage and is even toying with the idea of fielding some state ministers.
Another significant player JDS of former Prime Minister H D Devegowda which pushed BJP to third place in terms of percentage of votes in the Assembly polls, has said it would announce its list of candidates for all the 28 constituencies in two or three days.
Its state unit president and son of Deve Gowda, H D Kumaraswamy, whose party is accused of practising dynastic politics, said JDS had not yet taken any decision on fielding his wife Anitha Kumaraswamy or son Nikhil Gowda.
In the 2009 polls, BJP had grabbed 19 seats, Congress six and JDS three in a clear-cut three-way contest, a big picture that will manifest in the current polls too.
Brought to its heels with a humiliating defeat in the Assembly polls that saw collapse of its first-ever government in the south India, BJP has this time got its act together in time, having ensured the return of former Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa back to its fold.
Yeddyurappa, who played a spoiler with 10 per cent vote share, though winning only six of the 224 Assembly seats, had walked out of BJP and formed his own outfit Karnataka Janatha Paksha (KJP) which he merged with the parent party recently.
The Lingayat strongman is now trying to establish his hold within BJP and bargaining hard to get re-entry for some of his supporters and state leaders as the party seems to be disinclined to open the door for them.
There is also a move to field Yeddyurappa for the Lok Sabha polls from Shimoga, a seat currently held by his son Ragavendra, to shore up BJP’s prospects.
BJP received a boost yesterday when BSR Congress President B Sriramulu announced his party’s decision to merge with it “unconditionally”, two years after he walked out of the party.
Sriramulu, once considered a trusted lieutenant of the mining barons from Bellary, the Reddy brothers, Janardhana and Karunakara, is expected to add incremental value to BJP as he is considered an important leader of the Valmiki community
with its own sphere of influence.
For BJP, the exercise of finalising candidates has not been smooth for several constituencies, including Bangalore North, for which former Chief Minister D V Sadananda Gowda and former Deputy Chief Minister R Ashok were contenders and were even engaged in an ugly public spat. Ashok, however, withdrew from the race, preferring to be in state politics.
The election heat in Karnataka started last month itself with BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi hitting the campaign trail. Gandhi held a roadshow covering several districts in old Mysore region.
BJP is banking on what it calls “Na Mo magic” to fill its kitty with at least 20 seats, while for Congress it is a hard battle to reverse the 2009 performance and gain big numbers.
Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has a lot at stake in the Lok Sabha polls as the outcome would be a litmus test for him to consolidate his own position within the party in which it is not a cosy existence for him.
Filing of nominations will begin on March 19 and the last date for filing of papers is March 26. Scrutiny will be taken up on March 27 and the last date for withdrawal of nominations is March 29.