Contest between a veteran and a debutant in this BJP bastion

A young and controversial Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate and a Congress veteran will go head to head in Bengaluru South parliamentary constituency, which has been a BJP bastion for over 28 years.

High drama ensued the candidate selection, with party workers and even the nominees themselves surprised by the choices. The Congress announced the candidature of Rajya Sabha member B.K. Hariprasad just days ahead of the deadline to file nominations. Mr. Hariprasad, according to sources, was lobbying for ticket to contest from Bengaluru Central.

A few hours before the Congress nominee was announced, Tejasvi Surya, general secretary of Karnataka BJP’s youth wing, was chosen over Tejaswini, wife of the late Union Minister Ananth Kumar who had represented the constituency for over two decades, as the candidate.

There was discontent among some over Mr. Surya’s choice as State BJP leaders had recommended Ms. Tejaswini’s name. BJP national president Amit Shah had to visit the constituency to quell dissidence by offering Ms. Tejaswini the post of BJP State vice-president.

The Opposition targeted Mr. Surya for his views on the women’s reservation Bill (which he had opposed) and for declaring that the BJP should be a “a party for Hindus” (about which he had tweeted after the Congress won the Jayanagar Assembly seat in 2018). Mr. Surya responded with an ex parte gag order against the media, which was later disposed by the High Court.

Previous election data suggests that the odds are overwhelmingly in favour of the BJP. In the 2018 Assembly polls, the BJP got 5.7 lakh votes, the Congress 4.21 lakh, and the JD(S) 1.32 lakh votes.

Since 1999, the cumulatively votes of the Congress and the JD(S) surpassed those of the BJP’s only in the 2004 Lok Sabhaelections, when popular actor Jayanthi garnered 77,000 votes on a JD(S) ticket.

This time, the Congress will have to rely heavily on its ability to garner votes rather than boost its numbers through a JD(S) vote transfer.

Mr. Hariprasad, who lost the election to Ananth Kumar in 1999, is not letting the numbers get to him and says that the margin is low when the JD(S)-Congress votes are combined. Undecided voters are their target. “The response we have received during the campaign is overwhelming and local people are aware of [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi’s lies,” he said.

The Congress is hoping to cash in on the hidden discontent within the BJP over the denial of ticket to Ms. Tejaswini and by wooing undecided voters.

‘Working in unison’

BJP MLA for Govindarajanagar V. Somanna, who had expressed unhappiness over the choice of candidate, said the BJP was now working in unison to ensure it retains the seat. “Fielding a young candidate is the decision of the party and we have to abide by that. The BJP candidate will win the seat with ease like we did in the previous elections. Not only do we have a large number of BJP MLAs in the constituency, a majority of the councillors are also from the party,” he said.

Bolstering this was Mr. Modi’s rally here on April 13, during which Mr. Surya’s speech hit the right chords among party workers.

The Congress is aware that the battle is with Mr. Modi’s image rather than the pull of the politically untested Mr. Surya. Mr. Hariprasad, in his campaigns, has targeted the Prime Minister for “failing to deliver on his promises”.


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