BJP’s Karnataka chief minister has tough promises to keep (News Analysis)

April 19th, 2009 - 1:03 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party By V.S. Karnic
Bangalore, April 19 (IANS) As voting dates for the 28 Lok Sabha seats in Karnataka approach, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) first chief minister in south India B.S. Yeddyurappa is under intense pressure, which he has inflicted on himself.

He has promised the party’s central leadership that he will send between 22 to 24 MPs from the state to help realise the dream of making L.K. Advani India’s next prime minister.

The BJP had won 18 of the 28 seats in 2004.

With the present elections being held with the party in power in the state, Yeddyurappa believes it should be easy to bag four to six additional seats in the two phase voting - April 23 in 17 constituencies and April 30 in the remaining 11.

The chief minister has reportedly warned his ministerial colleagues and party members who have been rewarded with plum posts of heads of government-run boards and corporations that heads will roll if the party performs poorly in their areas.

The chief minister has denied issuing any warning, but opposition parties are planning to approach the election authorities to complain that the reported threat violates the poll code.

It is not the usual dissidence that affects almost all parties during election time over nomination of candidates that is posing a challenge to Yeddyurappa. The reasons are more personal.

First, he has fielded his son B.Y. Raghavendra from his home district Shimoga after repeatedly stating that partymen should not even mention the son’s name.

Raghavendra, a first time contestant, faces former Karnataka chief minister S. Bangarappa, who has returned to Congress after a brief stay in BJP and Samajwadi Party.

Bangarappa, who will be 76 this October, is a formidable opponent for Raghavendra, who will turn 36 in August. Bangarappa has won the Shimoga Lok Sabha seat four times since 1996, twice as a Congress candidate, once as a BJP nominee and the fourth time on a Samajwadi Party ticket (at a bypoll in 2005 after he resigned from BJP and Lok Sabha).

Though Bangarappa lost to Yeddyurappa in the May 2008 state assembly poll from Shikaripura in Shimoga district, he is still a force in the area.

This is making the chief minister devote a lot of time to ensure his son’s victory.

The Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) has not fielded a candidate and is tacitly supporting Bangarappa.

Yeddyurappa has also to toil for the victory of ‘defectors’ from Congress and JD-S who were favoured over ‘loyal’ party workers in nominations in seven constituencies - Bangalore North, Bangalore Rural, Mandya, Tumkur, Hassan, Chikkodi and Bidar.

Former state BJP president B.B. Shivappa, Bijapur Lok Sabha member Basanagouda Patil Yatnal and former deputy speaker of the Lok Sabha S. Mallikarjunaiah had rebelled against Yeddyurappa for giving tickets to ‘defectors’.

Yeddyurappa has managed to douse the rebellion with the help of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh leaders from the state.

The chief minister, however, remains cagey as party workers may not work wholeheartedly for the victory of the ‘defectors’.

Besides these troubles, Yeddyurappa and some of the party candidates are under intense scanner of the election authorities as well.

The BJP leads in the poll code violation cases registered against parties. According to chief electoral officer M.N. Vidyashankar, over 300 poll code violation cases have been registered against parties till Saturday. BJP leads with 120 cases and the Congess is close second with 95.

The party nominee in Uttara Kannada constituency, Anant Kumar Hegde, and two party legislators have had notices slapped by the election authorities for inflammatory speeches.

Yeddyurappa’s home district Shimoga stands second after iron-ore rich and party-stronghold Bellary district in poll code violations and seizure of liquor and other goods meant to woo voters.

Bangarappa’s son and Kannada film actor and former Congress legislator Kumar Bangarappa has been holding press conferences to display Rs.500 notes stamped with the Sanskrit word ‘Aum’, which, he claims, BJP is distributing to voters in Shimoga.

Yeddyurappa has denied the charges.

The chief minister is the star campaigner for the party in the state.

A BJP stalwart who could have shared the burden is general secretary H.N. Ananth Kumar. But he is forced to devote more time to retaining his Bangalore South constituency as Congress has fielded young, US-educated Krishna Byre Gowda against him.

Gowda is a member of the state assembly and president of the Karnataka youth congress.

Ananth Kumar also faces low-cost aviation pioneer G.R. Gopinath. The JD-S has fielded an educationist K.E. Radhakrishna, a retired professor of English.

BJP’s prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani, party president Rajnath Singh and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi have toured the state once for campaigning after the poll schedule was announced. BJP vice president Venkaiah Naidu is a frequent visitor. Still, Yeddyurappa remains a worried man.

(V.S. Karnic can be contacted at vs.karnic@ians.in)

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