In Karnataka BJP expects PM Modi to do the heavy lifting and campaign hard before polling

Why is old Mysuru region vital to BJP? In the 2018 assembly election BJP had won just 15 of the 62 seats in the region. This time the party and the PM aim at increasing the tally

PM Modi on Yoga Day in Mysuru
PM Modi on Yoga Day in Mysuru

Naheed Ataulla

Prime Minister Narendra Modi this week led 15,000 participants on the International Day of Yoga in the heritage city of Mysuru. He had breakfast with Mysuru’s royal family and interacted with beneficiaries of welfare schemes. He asked one of them, to her delight, if she would stitch a kurta for Union minister Pralhad Joshi.

Karnataka BJP’s poll strategists appeared pleased. The PM’s visit at public expense has given them a head start in the party’s weakest link in the old Mysuru region ahead of the 2023 Assembly polls, they acknowledged.

The old Mysuru region comprises 10 districts-- Mandya, Mysuru, Chamarajanagar, Ramanagaram, Hassan, Kodagu, Chikkamagaluru, Kolar, Chikkaballapur and Tumakuru -- accounting for 62 of the total 224 Assembly seats.

In the 2018 Assembly polls, the Janata Dal (Secular) topped the list winning 30 of the total 62 seats with a clean sweep in Mandya and losing just one seat in Hassan. The Congress and BJP won 17 and 15 seats respectively.

The tally changed slightly during the 2019 bypolls caused by Congress and JD(S) MLAs having switched over to the BJP.

Why is old Mysuru vital to BJP? In the 2019 bypolls, BJP opened its account in Mandya district for the first time with minister K.C. Narayana Gowda retaining the KR Pet seat after crossing over from the JD(S) to the BJP. This was also a personal victory for former Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa for two reasons.

Firstly, Yediyurappa had not been able to break the predominantly Vokkaliga bastion of the JD(S) here. In 2018 BJP’s candidate in K R Pet had been pushed to the fifth position. Besides, during the bypolls, Yediyurappa’s son B.Y. Vijayendra took charge of the constituency and the victory in KR Pet made the party appoint him as a vice-president.

According to BJP Rajya Sabha MP-elect Lehar Singh Siroya, Modi during his two-day visit to Bengaluru and Mysuru on June 20 and 21 has sent across the message that he is going to take charge of the two cities’ infrastructure development in the coming months. During his visit, Modi inaugurated and launched development projects worth Rs. 33,000 crore in the two cities.

BJP’s electoral gains since 2008 have primarily been in Bengaluru city and central and north Karnataka. In Bengaluru urban constituencies, BJP’s victory has been due to the candidates’ personal rapport with voters and the Modi factor, while in north Karnataka dominated by Lingayats, Yediyurappa, the strongman of the community, has been the driving force until now.

Old Mysuru home turf of two former CMs: The old Mysuru region being a Vokkaliga dominated region, the political battle here is between two former Chief Ministers-- Siddaramaiah in Mysuru and H.D. Kumaraswamy in Mandya. When Siddaramaiah was in the JD(S) before he was expelled in 2005, the Vokkaliga, Kuruba (shepherd community which Siddaramaiah represents) along with other backward classes was a perfect winnable bet in elections. Here Congress and JD(S) are traditional political rivals, which the BJP is now trying to penetrate.

In the last few months, the JD(S) is losing hold of the region with discontent brewing and reports of party MLAs planning to switch over either to the Congress or the BJP at the time of elections. The party expelled two of its MLAs K. Srinivasa Gowda and S.R. Srinivas from Kolar and Gubbi in Tumkuru for cross voting in the Rajya Sabha polls.

JD(S) MLA G.T. Deve Gowda, who defeated Siddaramaiah from Chamundeshwari constituency in Mysuru district in 2018, has distanced himself from the party and is likely to hop over either to the Congress or BJP. Siddaramaiah continues to be the strongman of the district despite having lost from Chamundeshwari.

Yediyurappa has been positioning Vijayendra to contest the next elections though the constituency is not known. In 2018, Vijayendra had declared himself as the candidate from Varuna in Mysuru district, but was denied the ticket. Among the 10 districts, BJP’s sure bets are Kodagu and Chikkamagaluru. The BJP won four of the five seats in Chikkamagaluru and both the seats in Kodagu in 2018.

Although Amit Shah has projected incumbent Basavaraj Bommai as the CM face for 2023, the latter does not have a pan-Karnataka reach, said a BJP leader, confiding that in next year’s assembly election PM Modi would lead BJP’s campaign in the state.

(This was first published in National Herald on Sunday)

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