By Bhavana Akella & Fakir Balaji
The BJP in Karnataka is betting on winning more seats in the Lok Sabha polls despite the prospects of facing joint contestants from the ruling JD-S and Congress allies in the 28 constituencies across the state.
"We will definitely win more seats this time than the 17 we had won in the 2014 general elections due to favourable factors, including the changing national mood and the solid achievements of the NDA government over the last 5 years," BJP state unit spokesman Vamanacharya told IANS.
A dominant party above the Vindhyas over the years, Karnataka has been the BJP's gateway to south India, having come to power first as a coalition partner with the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) in 2006 and on its own in the 2008 assembly elections.
Though the party lost in the 2013 assembly elections to the Congress, it bounced back in the parliamentary polls in 2014, winning 17 seats, as against 9 by the Congress and only 2 by the JD-S.
In the May 2018 assembly elections, the BJP emerged as the single largest party, winning 104 of the 224 seats, with Congress 80 and JD-S 37.
As the BJP fell 9 less of the simple majority (113) in the assembly, its Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa bowed out on May 19, three days after forming the government for the second time in the state.
"As the ruling allies have little presence in our strongholds across the coastal and north-interior areas, a combined candidate of the allies will not dent our prospects of retaining and winning more seats," asserted Vamanacharya.
Although Congress and JD-S fought against each other in all the assembly and Lok Sabha elections over the last 3 decades, they decided to field a common candidate this time to consolidate their "secular votes" and deny the BJP the benefit of division of their votes.
"Even after coming together, the combined 30 per cent vote of the minorities and Scheduled Castes (SCs) in northern districts like Kalaburagi will not affect our vote share, admitted Vamanacharya.
Congress leader in the outgoing Lok Sabha Mallikarjuna Kharge won from the Kalaburgi reserved (SC) constituency, about 600km north of the state.
Forming a post-poll alliance soon after the assembly results threw a hung verdict in May 2018, ostensibly to keep the BJP out of power, the rival 'secular' parties have decided to field joint candidates in the Lok Sabha polls by sharing the seats on the basis of winning prospects and their strength in the state.
"It's a joke if the ruling allies claim to win 22 of the 28 seats by fielding a joint candidate against our party, as our presence is stronger in three of the four regions, barring the old Mysuru region," mocked Vamanacharya.
Admitting that the BJP's prospects in Ballari reserved (Scheduled Tribes) seat in the state's northwest region would depend on its legislative member B. Sriramulu contesting, the party official said its chances in the Mysuru region's Mandya and Hassan seats were slim due to lack of its presence and cadres.
In Mandya, (100km southwest of Bengaluru), the situation is very fluid due to the imminent threat of secular votes dividing if the JD-S fields its own candidate and Sumalatha, widow of late Congress leader M.H. Ambareesh contests even as an independent, owing to the latter's popularity.
Ambareesh, the 66-year-old legendary rebel star of Kannada films from Mandya, died on November 24, 2018 after a brief illness.
According to the BJP's reading, the Congress may win 10 seats and the JD-S 2.
"Together, they cannot win more than that (10+212)," added Vamanacharya.
The coordination committee of the ruling allies have been brain-storming on seat-sharing to field a common candidate against the BJP and others.
(Bhavana Akella can be reached at email@example.com & Fakir Balaji at firstname.lastname@example.org)