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Finding winnable LS candidates: Challenge before BJP, Cong in K'taka

February 25, 2024 12:52 IST

The Bharatiya Janata Party and the ruling Congress -- the key contenders in the Lok Sabha elections in Karnataka -- are grappling with the challenges of finding winning candidates in several constituencies with stakes high for the two national parties.

IMAGE: Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge along with party leader being garlanded during a public meeting, in Bidar, Karnataka, February 20, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

The BJP had swept the 2019 general elections, bagging 25 of the total 28 seats in the state, while an independent backed by the party had also emerged victorious.


The Congress and the Janata Dal-Secular headed by former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda, which were running a coalition government back then and fought the election together, had come a cropper winning just one seat each.

But the political scene has changed significantly: The Congress scored a thumping victory in the assembly elections in May last year and now appears battle-ready, determined to put up a strong show in the Lok Sabha polls.

It is also a role reversal of sorts for JD-S which joined the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance in September last year and wants to prove that it's still a force to reckon with, particularly in South Karnataka.

The coming poll is also seen as a "litmus test" for state BJP president BY Vijayendra, who has the onerous task of leading the party to retain its supremacy in the Lok Sabha elections.

Both the BJP and the Congress have their share of challenges, with finding winning horses on top of this list.

The BJP is facing resistance against fielding sitting members of Lok Sabha once again in some constituencies while also facing alliance compulsions to accommodate its new partner JD-S, according to party sources.

The Congress, which won 135 out of a total 224 seats in the assembly elections, is keen to field some ministers but they are shying away, admitted a senior ruling party leader.

The BJP, banking on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's charisma, is aiming to win all 28 seats, while a resurgent Congress is targeting to bag 20 by highlighting that it has walked the talk by implementing five guarantee schemes.

The Congress had initially tasked ministers with identifying potential candidates but the party's state president and deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar had said recently that reports received were not satisfactory.

Shivakumar has said that the party has decided to commission one more survey to identify winnable candidates.

A Congress leader said having faced a rout in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and witnessing the defeat of several top leaders including M Mallikarjun Kharge, Veerappa Moily, and KH Muniyappa, despite being in power in the state in alliance with JD-S, many senior leaders don't want to enter the fray, as the party's prospects at the national level still don't look promising.

The Congress' performance in this election is another key test of sorts for Shivakumar, who has made no secret of his ambition to become Chief Minister, amid speculations of change in guard mid-way of the assembly term.

According to BJP insiders, the party is having some trouble in seats such as Bidar, Bellary, Haveri, Udupi-Chikmagalur, Dakshina Kannada, Koppal, Davangere, Chamarajanagar, Belgaum and Bijapur, where the party either is facing resistance mostly from within against fielding the sitting LS member, or there is lack of clarity as who the candidate should be.

Chamarajanagar MP V Srinivas Prasad and Haveri MP Shivakumar Udasi have already announced retirement from electoral politics after the current term ends.

"However, candidates-related issues may not majorly impact party's prospects in several of these segments as PM Modi is the key and main factor for the BJP's election fight and campaign, along with the Hindutva factor this time with consecration of Ram Lalla idol at Ram Mandir in Ayodhya," a party functionary said.

With winning momentum on our side along with having a strong central leadership, despite any initial troubles, everyone will ultimately fall in line and work for the victory of the candidate decided by the party, whoever it is, old or new," he said.

Ensuring a BJP sweep is also crucial for veteran leader BS Yediyurappa's son Vijayendra to consolidate his position as the party's state President and silence critics who have questioned his selection for the post.

The BJP will also have to make space for its alliance partner JD-S, by ceding some seats to the party in the old Mysuru region (south Karnataka) from where the regional party draws its strength from. Seat-sharing talks are on between both parties.

Though there is no official confirmation, as per information available so far, JD-S may contest in three to four seats. There may be chances of a candidate from the JD-S contesting under the BJP symbol.

For the BJP and JD-S alliance to click, it goes without saying that ground level coordination and understanding among their workers and transfer of votes to each other are essential.

Kishore S U in Bengaluru
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