High stakes for ruling BJP in Karnataka’s first phase (Poll curtainraiser - Karnataka)

April 22nd, 2009 - 12:51 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party Bangalore, April 22 (IANS) Less than a year after it captured power in Karnataka for the first time, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) again faces the electorate in a high stake Lok Sabha poll in the state beginning Thursday.
In the two-phase voting for the 28 seats April 23 and 30, the party faces a tough task of winning more than the 18 seats it bagged five years ago to ensure its maiden regime in southern India is not rocked by dissidence.

A failure to retain the seats it won in 2004, leave alone taking the tally higher, would weaken Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa who has a slender majority of eight in the 225-member state assembly. The majority of eight includes six independents.

Worse, the party’s central leadership would lose face as it has fielded party hoppers in eight constituencies on Yeddyurappa’s insistence. It has also given ticket to Yeddyurappa’s son B. Y. Raghavendra, swallowing its own stand against fostering dynastic politics.

Against this backdrop, the BJP is going to the electorate battling the Congress and the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S), which seem to have a tacit understanding while denying it.

Like the BJP, these two parties are also desperate for a better showing this time as in 2004 the Congress got just eight seats and the JD-S two.

The JD-S has not fielded candidates in two constituencies and for one other seat, its candidate has withdrawn in favour of the Congress.

About 20.6 million voters including 10.3 million women are eligible to decide the fortunes of 273 candidates in 17 constituencies where balloting will take place Thursday.

The constituencies are Chikkodi, Raichur (ST), Belgaum, Bijapur (SC), Gulbarga (SC), Bidar, Koppal, Bellary (ST), Uttara Kannada, Chitradurga (SC), Tumkur, Bangalore Rural, Bangalore North, Bangalore South, Bangalore central, Chikkaballapur and Kolar (SC).

The run-up to voting was marked by charges and counter-charges as parties and candidates did not find any issue that could create a wave in their favour.

The Congress campaign was led by party president Sonia Gandhi who toured the state twice. Her son and party general secretary Rahul Gandhi visited once.

BJP’s prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani led the party’s campaign, visiting the state twice while party president Rajnath Singh and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi came once each.

Former prime minsiter H.D. Deve Gowda and his son and former chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy were the star campaigners for the JD-S.

Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati toured the state once. Like the Congress and the BJP, she has fielded candidates for all the 17 seats.

The focus is on Bangalore South as the Congress has pitted young legislator Krishna Byre Gowda against BJP general secretary H. N. Ananth Kumar, who is seeking re-election for the fifth consecutive term. Low-cost aviation pioneer Capt. G. R. Gopinath is trying his luck in the constituency as an independent candidate.

Others whose fate will be decided Thursday include former chief minister and Congress media cell head M. Veerappa Moily (Chikkaballapur), former Congress general secretary Margaret Alva (Uttara Kannada) and JD-S’ Kumaraswamy (Bangalore Rural).

The first phase will also see nine-time legislator and Congress Working Committee (CWC) member Mallikarjun Kharge in the fray from the Gulbarga reserved constituency. He is pitted against BJP state minister Revu Naik Belagami.

The party hoppers in the fray include Gurupadappa Nagmarpalli, C.P. Yogeshwara and D.B. Chandre Gowda, who crossed over to the BJP from the Congress, and former super cop H.T. Sangliana, from the BJP to the Congress.

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