Voters turn Karnataka poll scene on head, big names bite dust

Voters turn Karnataka poll scene on head, big names bite dust
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First Published: Mon, May 26 2008. 12 00 AM IST

Updated: Mon, May 26 2008. 12 00 AM IST
Bangalore: The keenly contested elections in Karnataka saw an unprecedented swing in political fortunes with the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). This displacement has no doubt come at a cost to the established political order. Here are some examples that flag the change of guard in the state, the capital of which is the largest tech hub in the country.
Kingmakers no more
What a fall it has been for the Janata Dal (Secular) led by former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda. In 2004, with 58 seats it had emerged as the kingmaker. In 2008, it has won 28 seats finishing a distant third.
With the party increasingly being run like a family concern, Deve Gowda and his sons, former chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy and H.D. Revanna, had driven away most of the other senior leaders such as M.P. Prakash, S. Siddaramaiah, C.M. Ibrahim and P.G.R. Sindhia. Even on Sunday morning, the Gowdas were sanguine that no party would get a majority and that they would still call the shots.
But with the BJP just short of majority, the JD(S) is pondering over its future, with some even speculating that the party may see an internal revolt.
Family fights
Sorekoppa Bangarappa is a feared name in Karnataka politics. A backward class leader from the Ediga (traditional toddy tappers) community, he was feared because while he couldn’t single-handedly win elections, he could spoil the game for any party. It used to be said that even a dog from Bangarappa’s family could win an election from Soraba, which had become a family pocketborough.
Bangarappa, a permanent rebel in his chequered political career, had floated his own party called Kranti Ranga, joined the Congress to become chief minister and later shook hands with the BJP. In his current role as the Samajwadi Party (SP) president of the state, he had shifted from Soraba, where his estranged son Kumar Bangarappa fought on a Congress ticket against his younger brother Madhu Bangarappa contesting on an SP ticket. Bangarappa himself stood from neighbouring Shikaripura against BJP’s chief ministerial nominee B.S. Yeddyurappa. Not only did Bangarappa lose by a huge margin, his sons also suffered a drubbing.
Back to tinsel town
One of the biggest upsets in this election was the defeat suffered by sitting Congress MP from Mandya and former Union minister for information and broadcasting M.H. Ambareesh. He lost from Srirangapatna to Ramesh Bandi Sidde Gowda of the JD(S). A hero of several yesteryear Kannada movies, Ambareesh had contested the assembly elections in the hope that in case the Congress gets a majority, he could pitch for the job of CM.
It was not just Ambareesh but several other actors, cutting across party lines such as Sashi Kumar, Sai Kumar, Uma Shri, too, were defeated. Of the prominent actors only comedy king Jaggesh contesting on a Congress ticket from Turvekere won his seat. Unlike in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, the electorate in Karnataka chose to draw a line between reel and real life.
The happiest man
If you guessed him to be B.S. Yeddyurappa, you’re wrong! It is actually Ashok Kheny, the promoter of Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprise (NICE), which is supposed to implement a road project between Bangalore and Mysore. After years of opposition from Deve Gowda, who alleges that NICE wanted to grab valuable real estate in the guise of a road project, Kheny will be hoping that finally he would be able to complete the project. He had actually campaigned in different parts of the state, urging people to vote for a single, preferably national party. The JD(S) had alleged that Kheny was funding the Congress and BJP, a charge he refutes.
BJP mining barons
It was a case of one party’s mining barons being pitted against those of the opposition. It is no secret that the powerful mining lobby along with the real estate lobby acted as the key moneybags for all parties. While the BJP has the Reddy brothers, the Congress had its Lads backing it.
In the backward Bellary district, known for its mining industry, the BJP won eight out of the nine seats up for grabs. The only consolation for the Congress was the Sandur seat, where the erstwhile royal family put up its company accountant as the candidate and won decisively.
Giants bite the dust
The 13th assembly will miss several familiar faces. Former JD(S) leader and deputy CM M.P. Prakash, who had joined the Congress to contest from Harpanhalli, lost to BJP’s sitting MP from Bellary Karunakara Reddy. Known for his cultured and witty speeches, Prakash will be missed in the house. Such was the wave against the JD(S) that state president Meerajudin Patel lost from Humnabad.
Former CM Dharam Singh, who was planning to enter the Guinness Book of World Record by winning for the ninth consecutive time from Jevargi, was defeated by BJP’s Shiva Lingappa Goud Patil. Former industries minister R.V. Deshpande lost from Haliyal. Another prominent loser was N. Cheluvararaswamy, H.D. Kumarswamy’s confidant, from Nagamangala. The voluble and attention seeking pro-Kannada activist MLA from Chamrajanagar, Vatal Nagaraj, also lost.
Rebel factor
The rebel factor also seems to have affected the Congress more than the BJP. Of the six independents who have won, five are from the Congress and only one from the BJP.
“It is not as much a BJP’s victory as a Congress’s loss,” rued a Congress party worker. With the party going into funk, the blame game has begun, with the usual explanations being touted out.
The Congress could not even make up its mind. From S.M. Krishna, Dharam Singh, Mallikarjuna Kharge, Jaffer Sharief, Siddaramiah to even D.B. Chandre Gowda, a second-rung leader, almost everyone believed that they could somehow sway the high command and be CM.
Jinx broken
While the JD(S) strength has been reduced by more than a half when compared with the earlier assembly, the Gowdas have at least one reason to smile. The Congress’ decision to field women candidates, on astrological advice that the Gowda family can be defeated only by women, look unsound in hindsight. H.D. Kumaraswamy defeated Congress nominee Mamata Nichani, daughter of his father’s rival Ramakrishna Hegde, and his brother H.D. Revanna defeated Anupama Mahesh, daughter-in-law of another family foe Puttaswami Gowda from Holenarasipura.
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First Published: Mon, May 26 2008. 12 00 AM IST