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The Rediff Election Special / M D Riti in Bangalore
Vajpayee, Karnataka's hero
May 14, 2004
Please vote for Vajpayee for Delhi and BJP for our state," said Tejaswini Ananth Kumar, hands folded, as she campaigned diligently for her husband, state BJP president Ananth Kumar, last month.
The voters of Karnataka certainly seem to have done what she asked for.
Even as the rest of the country decided that Atal Bihari Vajpayee was not really making India shine, voters in Karnataka decided to support him. The BJP in Karnataka made no bones about making Vajpayee their champion, although Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani also devoted quite some time to touring Karnataka.
That Karnataka would vote for the BJP for Parliament was a foregone conclusion. The Sonia Gandhi factor was seriously discussed in the villages. The rural voters were familiar with the Gandhi bahu, as she had contested from Bellary in North Karnataka last time around.
Outgoing chief minister S M Krishna kept speaking of a Sonia wave sweeping through Karnataka. Unfortunately, there was no such thing. Instead, there was a great pro-Vajpayee wave! It was not strong enough to give the BJP a majority in the assembly, but it was certainly powerful enough to give them a clear victory in the Lok Sabha election.
C K Jaffer Sharief, the old Congress warhorse who has always won from Bangalore North, fell victim to the BJP wave. His rival, retired supercop H T Sangliana, who was one of Bangalore's most popular police commissioners, won. Interestingly, Sangliana's main campaign plank was a request that people 'vote for the man.'
Interestingly Janata Dal-Secular H D Deve Gowda, the man who will help decide who will rule Karnataka for the next five years, actually lost his own battle at Kanakapura to yet another Tejaswini.
Tejaswini Sriramesh, a woman television journalist who hosts a popular interview show called Mukhamukhi. Tejaswini, who makes her political debut with this spectacular win, also defeated old BJP stalwart Ramachandra Gowda.
Tejaswini made her mark with her television show, in which she interrogated many leaders, including Krishna. Fortunately for Deve Gowda, he was elected from his hometown constituency of Hassan, against his old rival H C Sreekantiah.
S Bangarappa won his own seat for the BJP from Shimoga. Bangarappa had defected to the BJP just before elections were announced.
Srikantadatta Wodeyar, the maharaja of Mysore, was also vanquished. His defeat is put down more to his personal image with his voters, who are believed to be dissatisfied with his performance over the past five years.
Ambareesh, ageing superstar and close friend of Krishna, won a seat for the Congress from Krishna's hometown of Mandya.
The BJP faced a few awkward moments when its state president Ananth Kumar trailed the low profile rivals he had in Bangalore South in the first round of counting. But he won eventually.
All said and done, Karnataka yet again voted differently for Parliament than the rest of the country.