What To Expect From BJP's Karnataka List — Key Issues, Possible Candidates, Likely Outcome

Sharan Setty

Mar 08, 2024, 10:20 AM | Updated Mar 09, 2024, 01:09 PM IST

BJP's list of candidates for Karnataka is likely to be made public on March 8, Friday.
BJP's list of candidates for Karnataka is likely to be made public on March 8, Friday.

On 2 March, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) announced its first list of candidates ahead of the general elections in India.

It featured 195 names from 17 states and three Union Territories — Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

While many new names have been included in the list, the BJP also retained a few old horses. But the list also included surprise candidates like Bansuri Swaraj from Delhi's Chandni Chowk and Anil Antony from Pathanamthitta in Kerala.

States like Karnataka, for instance, are being closely observed by pollsters ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. Due to the internal changes in the state unit of the BJP, the party is expected to spring a few surprises by retiring a few incumbent names and replacing them with fresh faces.

On 6 March, former chief minister of Karnataka and BJP stalwart B S Yediyurappa reached Delhi. He announced that the discussions are underway and the list will "most likely be ready this week".

These predictions are based on inputs from sources in the party, a general reading of the ground sentiment and media reports.

What Are The Different Regions Of Karnataka?

Although the categorisation as far as regions are concerned are largely the same across the media spectrum — Kalyana Karnataka, Kittur Karnataka, Central Karnataka, Karavali Karnataka, Old Mysore Region, Greater Bengaluru — the seats, however, are modified based on individual interests and convenience.

This applies specifically to Old Mysore Region and Greater Bengaluru Region. However, for this analysis, we will be categorising the seats in the following manner:

1. Kalyana Karnataka: Bidar, Raichur (ST), Gulbarga (SC), Koppal, Bellary (ST);

2. Kittur Karnataka: Chikkodi, Belgaum, Bijapur (SC), Bagalkot, Dharwad, Haveri;

3. Karavali Karnataka: Uttara Kannada, Dakshina Kannada, Udupi-Chikkamagalur;

4. Central Karnataka: Shimoga, Chitradurga (SC), Davanagere;

5. Greater Bengaluru: Bangalore North, Bangalore Central, Bangalore South, Tumkur, Kolar (SC), Bangalore Rural, Chickballapura;

6. Old Mysore Region: Mysore-Kodagu, Hassan, Mandya, Chamarajanagara (SC).

What Are The Key Issues?

There are issues directly affecting the people, there are issues within parties, and then there are political issues, that may or may not have an electoral impact.

Since the last few months, drought has affected parts of rural Karnataka, leaving people parched for water. Over the last few days, even cities like Bengaluru and Mysuru have run out of water, with tankers being taken over by the state administration.

Many apartments and housing societies have asked people to stop using water to wash their vehicles, and use wet wipes and paper plates instead. This situation has never been experienced before, at least in this writer's living memory.

Public patience has been tested. Visuals of water tankers entering Chief Minister Siddaramaiah's official residence have made a mockery of the common man's tolerance. Even Deputy Chief Minister D K Shivakumar admitted that the borewell in his house has run dry.

With such a situation in place, and Congress failing to deliver on promises like the completion of the Mekedatu project, public anger is real. All this happened when the INDI Alliance meeting was underway in Bengaluru. Tamil Nadu Congress is against the project, whereas Karnataka Congress has been pushing for it.

Summer is just about to begin, and if this trend persists, the situation can only worsen as the mercury shoots up in the coming weeks. With elections slated to be held during peak summer, this may become a primary issue in the state.

Apart from the above, issues like corruption, unemployment, lack of push from the state as far as infrastructure is concerned may be accounted for. The Congress stormed into power on the election plank promising five freebies — but not everyone is happy with the implementation and its outcome. Several projects have been stalled as a result of it, and Congress is busy blaming the Centre for lack of funds.

When the Congress party was about to get a breather from its south tax movement, The Rameshwaram Cafe bomb blast in Bengaluru, alleged shouting of pro-Pakistan slogans in the presence of a Congress MP in the city has come as a double whammy for the party.

It has been forced to defend itself, with many of its supporters even peddling the 'cylinder blast' theory, which angered people. Adding fuel to the fire, senior leader B K Hariprasad's comments on "Pakistan is not our main enemy, BJP is" has worked against its interests.

Political And Party Issues

At the same time, Telangana Chief Minister Revanth Reddy shared the dais with Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently. He endorsed the Gujarat model and said that his state aspires to grow in the same manner. His move to better Centre-state relations found rare appreciation from opposition leaders in Karnataka.

"Why can't Karnataka Congress leaders learn from their counterparts in Telangana?" was the question that was posed to them.

Arguably, the law and order situation in the state has been worsening. Karnataka had never experienced a bomb blast since the one in 2014 in Bengaluru's Church Street.

Voters in Karnataka, and the rest of the country, have been discussing how the older days of the Congress rule in the Centre was mired in terror attacks around the country. The BJP has been capturing the media space by attacking the Congress on these issues.

Meanwhile, the BJP has been energising its cadre with the possibility that nearly 10-12 sitting MPs may be dropped from its upcoming list. Anti-incumbency is a big issue for both parties, particularly the BJP, since many MPs are winning on a 'Modi wave' since 2014.

But the announcements from party leaders need to be taken with a pinch of salt, since not many changes are likely to happen. Party insiders suggest that the chances of dropping three-four MPs 'surely' exists, but 10-12 may be an inflated number. We will only know once the list is made public.

Historically, trends suggest that the state of Karnataka has voted differently in assembly and Lok Sabha elections. There have been only a few instances in recent history where a 'double engine sarkar' has been a reality.

With the BJP announcing its pre-poll alliance with the Janata Dal (Secular), the chances of Lingayat and Vokkaliga votes coming in favour of the alliance are much better.

Recently, with B Y Vijayendra taking over the reigns of the state BJP unit, B L Santosh camp has been sidelined, with BSY calling the shots alongside the national leadership.

Coastal Karnataka Will Be Interesting

It is rumoured that Karavali (coastal) Karnataka may see some drastic changes, and some big surprises are to be likely announced. This may or may not be true.

While it is true that all three sitting MPs face huge anti-incumbency in their respective constituencies, at least two of the three may be retained if the leadership decides to take a safer route.

Most observers agree that former state BJP president and sitting MP from Dakshina Kannada Nalin Kumar Kateel is likely to be dropped. He faces the wrath of the public anger for Praveen Nettaru's murder, and the failure of losing the 2023 assembly elections in the state has been attributed to him.

Meanwhile, Shobha Karandlaje may be retained because of her proximity to B S Yediyurappa. According to government sources, she has been an 'efficient' minister, and chances of her being accommodated elsewhere do not exist at the moment.

In Udupi, candidates like Pramod Madhwaraj, a former Congressman who joined the BJP, are aspiring for the ticket. Fresh faces like Uday Shetty are also being considered, sources suggest.

In Uttara Kannada, Ananth Kumar Hegde is still the frontrunner, even though the party leadership may want a different face this time. There is no other candidate who is as popular as him.

While Chakravarthy Sulibele, a popular orator in the state, is said to be an aspirant, he may have run out of favours with the party, sources suggest. Former speaker of the Karnataka Assembly Vishveshwar Hegde Kageri may also be considered for the seat.

Old Players, New Format?

A few among the seniors in the state leadership are said to be in the race to contest the general elections. This includes former chief minister Basavaraj Bommai.

Other leaders like K S Eshwarappa, Jagadish Shettar are reportedly lobbying for a ticket for themselves, reports suggest. From what sources say, Mangal Suresh Angadi, the sitting MP, is willing to make space for Shettar, since their families are related.

While Jagadish Shettar may be asked to contest from Belagavi, Bommai may be offered the Haveri seat. Union Minister Prahlad Joshi will most likely retain his Dharwad seat. There are rumours that Minister for External Affairs S Jaishankar may be offered the Chikkodi seat, but that will be a big surprise if it does happen.

In the Old Mysore Region, Sumalatha Ambareesh has been fighting to retain her seat. She won as an independent candidate in 2019, after her husband, the popular actor Ambareesh passed away.

Many actors like Darshan, Yash came out in support of her candidature and she ended up defeating former chief minister H D Kumaraswamy's son Nikhil Kumaraswamy. This was a historic win, since the region was considered to be a Congress stronghold.

But this time around, the JD(S) may be offered the seat. While there are chances of Nikhil Kumaraswamy being given the ticket, reports indicate that the JD(S) leadership is anxious about his winning chances.

Mysuru-Kodagu MP Prathap Simha will also likely retain his seat. Bengaluru Central, Bengaluru South will most likely see a repeat of the same candidates with P C Mohan (a businessman and OBC leader) and Tejasvi Surya.

However, Bangalore Rural will be an interesting fight depending on who the BJP or JD(S) candidate is. With D K Suresh's recent comments calling for a separate country for south India, public anger has risen against him.

Even during the assembly elections, Vokkaliga BJP leaders like R Ashok, and Ashwath Narayan were deployed to increase the party's presence in the region. There was a public spat between the two parties in a rally.

The BJP will also look forward to retaining Chamarajanagara and Gulbarga parliamentary constituencies since both of them are reserved for the Scheduled Castes. BJP managed to win both of them in 2019, taking the Congress by surprise. Mallikarjun Kharge, who has spent over four decades doing politics from the region, was defeated.

Bangalore North may also see a surprise candidate since many are being considered (or are trying) for the same seat — this includes C T Ravi, Nirmala Sitharaman, Deve Gowda's son-in-law C N Manjunath, Sobha Karandlaje, among others.

Also read: NDA Can Win 28/28 In Karnataka — If Only It Can Get Its Act Together In These Four Seats

Also read: Fielding Jaishankar From Karnataka Would Be A Good Bet For The BJP

Sharan Setty (Sharan K A) is an Associate Editor at Swarajya. He tweets at @sharansetty2.

Get Swarajya in your inbox.


A road trip through the poorest regions of India — its heartland