Bengaluru: L. Chandrashekar, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate, withdrew from the Ramanagaram assembly byelection on Thursday and returned to the Congress, dealing a last-minute blow to the saffron outfit’s grand plans to make inroads into the Vokkaliga-dominated district ahead of next year’s general elections.
Chandrashekar cited lack of support from BJP leaders, including their unwillingness to campaign on his behalf, for his decision to pull out of the 3 November byelection.
Vokkaliga is believed to be the second largest caste group in the state, accounting for almost 14% of the electorate.
The byelection has been caused by Karnataka chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy’s decision to vacate Ramanagaram—one of the two seats he won in assembly elections in May. His wife Anitha Kumaraswamy will be contesting on a Janata Dal (Secular), or JD(S) ticket in what is considered a safe seat for the party.
With the Congress having given up both Mandya and Ramanagaram to the JD(S), the bypolls presented the BJP with an opportunity to get a foothold in the Vokkaliga belt.
“They (BJP leaders) assured me full support but not one day did they campaign for me," said Chandrashekar, who has now announced his support for Anitha Kumaraswamy.
Many suspect Congress strongman and cabinet minister D.K. Shivakumar’s involvement in the development. Chandrashekar addressed the media alongside Bengaluru-rural member of Parliament and Shivakumar’s brother D.K. Suresh to announce Chandrashekhar’s decision.
“If we had given a ticket to one of our own party workers, this would not have happened. This is a lesson for us as well," K.S. Eshwarappa from the BJP said. Chandrashekhar joined the BJP two weeks ago.
Shivakumar, who engineered the defeat of former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda and Anitha Kumaraswamy in the past, has since grown close to the JD(S) leadership, especially after a Congress-JD(S) coalition assumed office this year.
Three parliamentary seats—Ballari, Shivamogga and Mandya—and two assembly constituencies, Ramanagaram and Jamkhandi, will head to the polls on Saturday.
All three political parties believe the results are likely to have an impact on the forthcoming assembly elections in five states, including Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh, as well as the 2019 general election.