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Karnataka polls 2018: BJP’s first candidates list exposes internal fissures, cadre calls leadership ‘autocratic’

The BJP on Sunday released its first list of 72 candidates in poll-bound Karnataka. The state will vote for representatives to its 224 assembly seats on 12 May.

The BJP state unit received the list with mixed reactions. Party leaders and workers are upset over the selection of people who have migrated from other parties in at least three seats — Chickpet in Bengaluru, Afzalpur in Kalaburgi district, and Basavakalyan in Bidar district.

Party workers slammed the national leadership for ignoring the recommendations of the district-level core committees and compromising on internal democracy. The cadres are especially shocked over the choice of Malikayya Guttedar, who switched over from the Congress just a week ago, in Afzalpur. “There are more things than just power and money… a party member who toiled for the party for long years has been sidelined to make way for Guttedar, which is nothing but an autocratic tendency (of the BJP),” said Dharmaiah Nayak, a BJP leader in Kalaburgi.

Most of the constituencies included in the first list fall in the heartland of the Lingayat-Veerashaiva communities, which witnessed clashes recently after the state government approved a separate religion status to Lingayats. But the BJP has gained ground in the region by ignoring all class and community considerations while naming candidates.

The move also shocked the Congress. “It is a clever move by the BJP, which is underplaying the communal angle because it’s using BS Yeddyurappa as a trump card among Lingayats and Veerashaivas. Two more lists are expected and those will also include several pockets where the two communities reside,” said professor Muzaffar Assadi, head of the postgraduate department of Political Science at University of Mysore.

Representational image. AFP

The first list also included sitting MLAs in 10 of 18 constituencies in Belagavi. In Kudachi, the BJP has fielded P Rajeev, who contested for Sriramalu’s BSR Congress in the last election where he had defeated Congress candidate Shyam Ghatage with a huge margin. He joined the BJP about a year ago.

The same thing has happened in Bailhongal constituency. Here, the party has named Dr Vishvanath Patil, who had followed BJP’s chief ministerial candidate BS Yeddyurappa from the BJP to the KJP and back to the saffron party. Patil had contested the 2014 election as a KJP candidate from Bailhongal and won. Former Bailhongal MLA, BJP leader Jagadish Metgud expressed his displeasure over the choice.

In Haveri district, former minister and sitting MLA Basavaraj Bommai has been named in Shiggavi-Savanur, MLA UB Bankar in Hirekerur, and former minister CM Udasi in Hanagal constituency. All three are followers of Yeddyurappa: Banakar was elected from the KJP in the last election while Udasi and Bommai are dominant leaders in north Karnataka. Udasi also had the PWD portfolio during Yeddyurappa’s tenure as chief minister. Both will get Cabinet berths again if Yeddyurappa comes to power in this election. BJP MLA Somanna Bevinamarad, a strong candidate from Shiggavi-Savanur, has declared he will contest as a rebel candidate. Candidates of three other constituencies — Haveri (SC), Byadagi, and Ranebennur — will be announced later.

All sitting MLAs get tickets in Bengaluru but a couple of surprises thrown up

Of the 28 seats in Bengaluru city, the names of 16 BJP candidates have been announced in the first list. The immediate aftermath of this was a city spokesperson tendering his resignation. An upset NR Ramesh, a corporator who was promised the Chickpet Assembly seat, submitted his resignation amid high drama as one of his supporters attempted suicide.

This apart, all the sitting MLAs in Bengaluru have retained their seats. The BJP currently holds 12 seats, three each in the four Lok Sabha constituencies of Bengaluru North, Bengaluru South, Bengaluru Central, and Bengaluru Rural. Among the sitting MLAs who were renominated are SR Vishwanath from Yelahanka, S Muniraju from Dasarahalli, Dr CN Ashwathnarayan from Malleswaram, YA Narayanaswamy from Hebbal, S Raghu from CV Raman Nagar (SC), Aravind Limbavali from Mahadevapura (SC), former minister S Suresh Kumar from Rajaji Nagar, Ravi Subramanya from Basavanagudi, former deputy chief minister R Ashoka from Padmanabhanagar, BN Vijayakumar from Jayanagar, Satish Reddy from Bommanahalli, and M Krishnappa from Bengaluru South.

A surprise renomination has been Uday Garudachar who lost from Chickpet in the 2013 Assembly polls. He is the son of celebrated police officer BN Garudachar and has real estate interests — including the upmarket Garuda Mall. His Maverick Holdings courted controversy because of delays in the construction of flats for the economically weaker sections in Ejipura.

A new candidate, PM Muniraju Gowda, has been named from Rajarajeshwari Nagar. He had contested and lost the 2014 Lok Sabha polls from Bengaluru Rural. Another inclusion has been member of legislative council V Somanna, who has been allotted the Govindaraja Nagar seat. The candidate for Anekal, A Narayanaswamy, has been a former minister in the BJP government.

There is no doubt that the sitting BJP MLAs have worked for the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) election in 2015 and helped the party get 101 of the 198 seats, despite a Congress government being in place in Karnataka and losing 20 seats from the earlier tally. However, the Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) cobbled together a majority as even MLAs, MLCs, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha MPs votes are counted in the final tally. All this happened even as the BJP wrested all three city MP seats in the Rajya Sabha — represented by Union ministers DV Sadananda Gowda (Bengaluru North), Ananth Kumar (Bengaluru South), and PC Mohan (Bengaluru Central).

Citizens unite offline and on social media to take MLAs to task

This time, some of the sitting BJP MLAs such as Mahadevapura’s Aravind Limbavali and CV Raman Nagar’s S Raghu (both two-term MLAs) are facing anti-incumbency, especially from vocal social media, civic groups and resident welfare associations.

A few hours before the seats were announced on Sunday, Limbavali had tweeted from @bjparvind, his official handle: “Mahadevapura on top of the list in Infrastructure Development; The roads of Mahadevapura have seen a tremendous development in the last decade. Moreover, Mahadevapura constituency has seen decent roads, making Mahadevapura a well connected area.”

His tweet was met with much derision with people trolling him with tweets like: “You got to be kidding”, “Are you joking Mr”, “Maybe he is talking about Mahadevapura in some parallel universe.” Whitefield Rising (WFR), a civic group, tweeted: “Bad roads, even worse traffic, polluted waters and smoke filled air. Welcome to our world.” WFR has been baiting the MLA for a long time and has threatened that the one lakh strong community in Whitefield will vote against him in a constituency with five lakh plus voters.

S Raghu too has been at the receiving end of criticism by IChangeIndiranagar, a federation of residents welfare associations from the area, which, a couple of days ago, decided to raise money on a crowdfunding site to fight in court against rampant commercialisation in the area.

Whether the average Bengalurean’s sympathy stays with the BJP or the party gets a jolt a year ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha election remains to be seen.

Members of 101Reporters, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters, contributed to this report

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