For close to 30 years, South Bangalore has been a BJP bastion, thanks to its representative since 1991, former Union Minister H Ananth Kumar.
Ironically, his death after a prolonged illness last year, had sparked off intense struggle within the Sangh Parivar that overrode the claims of his wife Tejaswini Ananth Kumar and fielded the young RSS leader Tejasvi Surya. His surprise selection to fill in the big shoes of Ananth Kumar has had the local BJP leadership angry with several cadres and leaders questioning the selection, asking the leadership the rationale for denying ticket to Ananth Kumar’s widow, Tejaswini.
Ignoring the heat and dust the candidature of the young RSS leader had generated, the BJP election machine rolled on, stamping on the sentiments of its local leaders. In fact, few supporters of Tejasvi Surya went onto proclaim on local TV channels that “it does not matter who the candidate is. The BJP will come first as most here vote for the BJP only.”
Now, that could be a too rash a proclamation to make, after the Assembly elections injected more life into the Congress and the JD(S) combine that is eager to build on the momentum of the last year’s results. Even though five of the eight Assembly segments under the constituency are held by the BJP, the Congress-JD(S) combine is sensing a kill, viewing the emerging infighting within the BJP ranks as the sufficient condition that will help them defeat the BJP, for the first time in nearly three decades. Sensing trouble, BJP president Amit Shah flew down and conducted a road show in support of Tejasvi Surya last week. And on April 13, PM Modi is also visiting Bangalore to campaign, indicating the importance the BJP has attached to protecting its bastion in Bangalore.
There is a real danger that the BJP could lose as it is facing the combined strength of the two ruling coalition partners. If the constituency votes like it did in the 2014 general elections, then the Congress-JD(S) combine has no chance at all, as Ananth Kumar had won with a vote share of 51.6 per cent. But if the recent Assembly vote share is taken into account, then the BJP could be in real danger of ceding this seat to the Congress which has fielded senior leader and Rajya Sabha member, BK Hariprasad. If the Congress and JD(S) votes in Assembly elections are taken into account, the combine got 5,65,548 votes as against the BJP’s 5,70,949. The BJP won five Assembly seats and the Congress three in this parliamentary constituency. The difference in the total votes was only 5,401.
Senior Congress leaders said that the infighting, or, to put it mildly, disgruntlement in local BJP leaders, would help Hariprasad. The Congress candidate himself is confident that the party will be able to consolidate the minority votes and the Vokkaliga votes, as also the OBC and SC/ST votes, given the support from JD (S). The constituency profile – dominated by Vokkaliga and OBC voters – gives the coalition partners an edge that was missing in previous elections as the two parties fought separately. And since both the parties had announced that they would be fighting the Lok Sabha elections together, the cadres are more or less used to the idea by now.