Bengaluru: Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah will contest from two seats, Chamundeshwari in Mysuru district and Badami in Bagalkot district (north Karnataka), in the assembly elections on 12 May, the chief minister’s office (CMO) confirmed on Friday.
Even though the official candidate list for the Congress is yet to be announced, the CMO said that Siddaramaiah would file his nominations from Chamundeshwari on 20 April and from Badami on 23 April.
The decision on the seats for Siddaramaiah, whose political career has mostly been in the southern part of the state, comes at a time when Karnataka is witnessing one of its most fiercely contested elections in recent times.
Bagalkot district comes under Bombay-Karnataka (erstwhile regions that were part of the Bombay presidency) which is considered a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stronghold.
His decision to contest from two seats throws up two contrarian viewpoints. One one hand, it could be viewed that Siddaramaiah has relieved himself of some of the pressure he would have faced in Chamundeshwari that has a strong Janata Dal (Secular) presence. However, the contrarian view would be that he would now have to win both seats that would help him thwart any challengers to the chief ministers post from within his own party, if the Congress does manage to win a majority in the 224 assembly house. Though Siddaramaiah is leading the Congress into the polls, the party has not named him as the chief ministerial candidate.
Though the south and north are equally important politically, Karnataka’s politics has seen a bigger influence of the south with most of the chief ministers hailing from this region.
“Fighting from two seats takes the punch out of Chamundeshwari," said Narendar Pani, political analyst and faculty at the National Institute of Advanced Studies.
Though Siddaramaiah has contested seven elections and won five of them from Chamundeshwari, he moved to Varuna constituency after the delimitation in 2008. Siddaramaiah decided to contest from Chamundeshwari in the 2018 Karnataka assembly polls from Chamundeshwari, which has since his exit become a JD(S) stronghold, to make way for this son Dr Yathindra Siddaramaiah to contest from Varuna as the Congress candidate.
Siddaramaiah had unsuccessfully contested from Koppal constituency in north Karnataka as the erstwhile Janata Dal candidate in the 1991 Lok Sabha elections, where he came in a close second.
His second attempt to contest from Badami in north Karnataka this time around could be a much safer bet as the region has a sizeable Kuruba population, Pani said. Siddaramaiah belongs to the Kuruba community. Chimmanakatti Balappa Bhimappa of the Congress won the 2013 elections from this constituency, defeating the JD(S) candidate by margin of over 15,000 votes.
The northern part of the state also has a considerable size of Lingayat population, a section of who have assured to back Siddaramaiah and his party after the latter accorded minority religion status to the community, believed to be the largest in the state accounting for almost 15%.
Congress’ decision to support the separate religion demand by Lingayats was also seen as an attempt by the party to split the community’s voter base, that has largely sided with the BJP and its leader B.S.Yeddyurappa, who also belongs to the same community.