By Fakir Balaji
Bengaluru: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is banking on the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his campaign to retain the three key Lok Sabha constituencies in India’s tech hub of Bangalore, where polling will be held on April 18 in the first phase of the 2019 general elections in Karnataka.
The southern state’s capital has four seats – Bangalore South, Bangalore North and Bangalore Central, which the BJP won, while the Congress bagged Bangalore Rural in the 2014 general elections.
“Being a cosmopolitan city with more people (60 per cent) from outside the state, the IT capital has a mixed electorate, with half of them having no affiliation to political parties or their contestants to vote on local or regional but national issues and for a party that would improve the garden city’s woeful infrastructure,” a political analyst told IANS.
As the BJP’s prime ministerial contender in the 2014 elections, Modi ensured the BJP would retain all the three seats in the city by connecting with the millennials, techies and women though the voting percentage was at 56, every vote for the party was a vote for him to realise his dreams.
Union Minister for Statistics and Programme Implementation D.V. Sadananda Gowda and P.C. Mohan are again in the fray from Bangalore North and Bangalore Central on the BJP ticket, while the party has fielded Young Turk Tejasvi Surya in Bangalore South, from where late Union Minister for Parliamentary Affairs H.N. Ananth Kumar had won a record six times since 1996.
Kumar died in office on November 12, 2018, in the city at the age of 59.
“Besides Modi’s leadership and high-voltage appeal, we are counting on the goodwill the people have for Gowda and Mohan and on their contribution to retain the seats. Sympathy and respect for Ananth Kumar will help Surya to keep Bangalore South for us,” state BJP spokesman G. Madhusudhan told IANS.
In Bangalore Rural, outgoing member Congress D.K. Suresh is re-contesting to retain the seat at any cost against heavy odds.
The Congress, however, is hoping to wrest at least two of the city’s three seats in a straight contest against the BJP, thanks to a pre-poll alliance with its ruling ally, the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S), to field a joint candidate and avoid division of the “secular” vote at the hustings.
“With the help of JD-S, which has a modest presence in the city, we hope to win 2 of 3 seats in Bangalore by preventing our vote split and retain the rural seat on the performance of our 10-month-old coalition government,” state Congress spokesman Ravi Gowda told IANS.
The ruling allies are also hoping to repeat their performance in the May 2018 assembly elections, in which the Congress won 15 seats and JD-S 2 out of 28 seats in the city, while the BJP could win only 11 seats.
“As this election is for the Lok Sabha and not assembly, the people are smart and aware of the issues at stake. We are upbeat on retaining all the three seats in the city on the basis of Modi’s leadership, stability and record achievements of the BJP-led NDA government in the past 5 years,” Madhusudhan said.
Though Bangalore North was allotted to the JD-S as part of the pre-poll seat-sharing arrangement in the ratio of 20 for the Congress and 8 for the JD-S, the latter gifted the prestigious seat to the former as it did not have a winnable candidate.
With JD-S supremo H.D, Deve Gowda contesting from Tumkur after paving the way for his other grandson Prajwal to contest from Hassan as a joint candidate, the regional party (JD-S) gave up Bangalore North to the Congress.
Prajwaj is the son of state PWD Minister H.D. Revanna and nephew of Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy, who has also fielded his son Nikhil Gowda from Mandya Lok Sabha seat in the old Mysuru region, about 100km southwest of the city.
Multilingual South Indian 55-year-old actress Sumalatha Ambareesh is in the fray as an Independent against 28-year-old Nikhil, also a Kannada-Telugu actor in the sandalwood film world, to wrest Mandya from the JD-S.
In the absence of a contestant to take Sadananda Gowda head-on, the Congress has fielded its Rural Development Minister Krishna Byre Gowda, a legislator from one (Byatarayanapura) of the 8 assembly segments in the prestigious parliamentary constituency in the city’s northwest suburb.
Byre Gowda contested in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections and lost to Ananth Kumar in Bangalore South. Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani, who contested against Kumar in the 2014 polls, too lost the battle for supremacy.
In the absence of a strong and local candidate, the Congress has fielded its New Delhi-based 64-year-old Rajya Sabha member B.K. Hariprasad from Karnataka against BJP’s Surya in the battle for Bangalore South.
In Bangalore Central, the Congress has re-nominated Rizwan Arshad though he lost to BJP’s sitting member Mohan.
The BJP has fielded Ashwath Narayangowda against Suresh of the Congress in the Bangalore Rural seat.
In the battle of the ballot, time will tell if Modi’s magic spell will work again for the BJP to retain Indiaa¿s silicon valley, as the outcome also depends on the voting percentage, as the city has a reputation of polling lowest in the state.
(Fakir Balaji can be contacted at [email protected])