By Fakir Balaji
Bengaluru, April 23 (IANS) The Bharatiya Janata Party is betting on retaining its hold in Karnataka in the 2019 general election despite facing the Congress and Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) jointly in all the 28 Lok Sabha seats.
“Odds favour BJP to win more Lok Sabha seats in Karnataka in straight contests against the ruling allies for various factors, including its stronghold in the coastal, northern and central regions of the southern state,” a political analyst told IANS after polling ended for all seats, including 14 on Tuesday where the voter turnover was over 67 per cent.
Polling for 14 seats in the central and southern regions of the state was held on April 18, with 69 per cent voter turnout.
In the 2014 general election, the BJP won 17, Congress 9 and JD-S-2 when polling was held in the 28 seats in one phase on April 17, 2014.
“We are confident of winning 22 of the 28 seats this time to ensure our party forms the government again in the Centre under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose popularity is more now than what it was in 2014,” an upbeat party’s state unit president B.S. Yeddyurappa told reporters after casting his vote at Shikaripura in Shimoga parliamentary seat on early Tuesday.
Yeddyurappa’s son B.Y. Raghavendra is in the fray from Shimoga for the third time, having won in 2009 for the first time and again in the November 2018 by-election.
Yeddyurappa had won the seat in the 2014 elections but resigned on getting elected from Shikaripura segment in the May 2018 state assembly elections.
Of the 28 Lok Sabha seats, including 5 reserved for the Scheduled Castes (SC) and two for the Scheduled Tribes (STs), BJP won 19 in 2009 and 18 in 2004 general election.
Of the remaining, Congress won 6 in 2009 and 8 in 2004, while the JD-S bagged 3 in 2009 and 2 in 2004 respectively.
“We have been winning more parliamentary seats than Congress and JD-S together in the state since 2004, as the electorate voted for stability, governance and development, which are the hallmarks of our party,” BJP state official G. Madhusudhan told IANS.
The 9 seats that the Congress won in the state in the 2014 polls were the highest in the country, which forced the party to make its senior MP Mallikarjun Kharge from the state its leader in the Lok Sabha in June 2014.
The overall voting percentage in all the 28 seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections was 67.20 in the state.
The overall voting percentage in the 2018 assembly elections was 66.68 per cent as against 71.29 per cent in 2013 assembly elections.
“Besides Modi’s popularity, his decisive leadership and scam-free governance with growth-oriented development of all have worked in favour of the party, as evident from our own surveys and opinion polls conducted by other and independent agencies,” asserted Madhusudhan.
The BJP also hopes the electorate will “punish” the Congress-JD-S for denying it an opportunity to rule the state despite winning 104 seats in the 225-member assembly in the 2018 state elections.
To keep the BJP out of power, a defeated Congress with 80 seats gave unconditional support to JD-S, which won only 37 seats, to form the coalition government after the May 2018 assembly elections threw up a hung house with a split verdict.
Though Yeddyurappa formed the government on May 17, he resigned on May 19 as the party fell 9 short-off the half-mark (113) for a simple majority, paving way for the JD-S to form the coalition government with its arch rival Congress with a post-poll alliance.
The ruling alliance, however, swears that the outcome of the Lok Sabha elections on May 23 would be in their favour as they challenged the BJP jointly to prevent division of their asecular’ votes and on the strength of their combined vote share.
“The BJP will not be able to win more seats this time as it does not have the benefit of triangular contests it took advantage of in the past elections since 2004. We have already demonstrated our strength in the assembly and parliamentary elections in November 2018, when we retained our seats and wrested Bellary from it,a Congress state unit president Dinesh Gundu Rao told IANS here.
Of the 28 seats, Congress contested 21 and JD-S in 7 seats. In the second phase on April 18, Congress was in fray in 10 and JD-S in 4, while in the third phase on Tuesday, Congress contested in 11 and JD-S in 3.
“Though both our parties were rivals for over 3 decades, by forming the coalition government and running it well over the last 11 months, with pro-farmer and pro-poor policies and programmes, we have won the confidence of the people to vote for our joint candidates to not only defeat the BJP, but also form the UPA government again under the leadership of Congress president Rahul Gandhi,” JD-S official Ramesh Babu told IANS.