Former Karnataka chief minister and state Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president, B.S.Yeddyurappa on Wednesday said that all sitting members of Parliament (MP) from the state are likely to be given tickets to contest the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, scheduled to be held in the second half of April.
The decision, likely to be finalised by the end of the week, bringing out the cautious side of the BJP who are well aware that it can capitalise on the internal problems of the Janata Dal (Secular) and Congress only if it can keep its own house in order.
“All 16 sitting MP’s will be continued and discussions are on for the others," Yeddyurappa said in Bengaluru on Wednesday. The party has already decided to field Tejaswini AnanthKumar, the wife of Bengaluru South MP, Ananth Kumar, who died last year.
The BJP has set a target of winning 22 out of the 28 seats or seven more than they currently have from the state.
The BJP in Karnataka is relying heavily on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to retain its existing seats, let alone win new ones in a state which has a tendency to vote for different parties at the state and national elections.
Yeddyurappa had earlier said that if the party managed to win 22 seats in the state, it would be able to form the government in Karnataka as well. In a recent interview to Mint, Yeddyurappa had said that the coalition itself was not confident to carry on after the elections, referring to the hard stand taken by the JD(S) and the Congress in seat sharing discussions that has compounded its problems.
But the Congress is trying hard to make this coalition work as it would help the party stitch multiple alliances with other parties across the country to take on PM Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government. Despite being the larger partner, the Congress has given up the top post and 11 other ministries in the cabinet to its smaller partner, just to keep the BJP, that emerged as the single largest party in the May assembly elections, out of power in the state.
But it was hoping that its sacrifices in the state would help it win a higher number of seats in the Lok Sabha elections to help it overcome the devastating defeat in 2014 when it was reduced to double digits.
The Congress is unwilling to concede any of the seats it currently holds but the JD(S) has been adamant about a few seats in south Karnataka, where the two parties have shared a bloody and confrontational past.
The JD(S) has set its eyes on Mysuru-Kodagu, Chikkaballapura, Tumakuru among others in the south. Ceding more ground in the southern part of the region would not mean giving up on the dominant Vokkaliga community vote but also giving further room for dissent within its grass root level cadre, who can barely see eye-to-eye in these districts.
Several Congress workers have come out publicly to state that they will not be able to work for a JD(S) candidate in Mandya. The JD(S) has fielded Nikhil Kumaraswamy, the son of chief minister H.D,Kumaraswamy in Mandya that has not just seen opposition from the Congress but also from within its own party as workers feel that several local leaders were overlooked for the ticket.
The displeasure against Nikhil likely to benefit Sumalatha Ambareesh, the wife of popular Kannada actor H.Ambareesh who died last year. Though Sumalatha has not ruled out joining the BJP, she has been asking the Congress to not give up Mandya to its coalition partner or that she would be forced to contest as an independent.
The decision to nominate Deve Gowda’s two grandsons, Nikhil and Prajwal Revanna, has not gone down very well with all party workers with sharp criticism against the JD(S) top leadership for promoting family politics.
Gowda has been trying to deflect criticism and even welled up while addressing a campaign rally on Wednesday in Hassan district, about 180 kms from Bengaluru. His son and cabinet minister H.D.Revanna and grandson Prajwal also tearing up when Deve Gowda said that he would not be contesting from his home district of Hassan this time.