Summer tends to beat down the enthusiasm of even the most ardent political workers, but it hasn’t stymied the energy levels of former Karnataka chief ministers, some of whom, even in the last leg of their political career, are actively campaigning and hoping for a win. Six chief ministers cutting across party lines are in the fray for the forthcoming General Election.
They are the Congress’ M Veerappa Moily and N Dharam Singh; the BJP’s BS Yeddyurappa and DV Sadananda Gowda; and the Janata Dal (Secular)’s father-son duo of HD Deve Gowda and HD Kumaraswamy.
The most formidable of the lot is former prime minister and JD(S) leader Deve Gowda. The 80-year-old is trying his luck from his pocket borough in Hassan. A rich, arid belt dominated by Volkkaligas — the state’s second largest and politically most empowered caste — Hassan has been a JD(S) stronghold since the 1990s. Gowda has won from the constituency four times (1991, 1998, 2004 and 2009). And in all probability, as poll trends and analysts predict, he is likely to retain it.
Kumaraswamy, who was the chief minister when the JD(S)-BJP alliance was in power during 2006- 08, is contesting from Chikballapur, where he will take on Congress heavyweight Veerappa Moily and former labour minister Bacche Gowda of the BJP. Though, the JD(S) has a sizeable support here, a three-cornered fight can dim Kumaraswamy’s chances.
A sitting MLA from Ramnagara district, Kumaraswamy suddenly decided to jump into the fray in order to increase the party’s tally in the election. He gave up the parliamentary seat in June 2013 following his election to the Assembly.
Meanwhile, 74-year-old Moily is going all out to retain Chikballapur. The Union petroleum minister is a native of Moodabidri in the coastal district of Dakshin Kannada. He had never contested outside Udupi district in the Assembly elections. But after being denied a ticket for the Dakshin Kannada seat, he decided to contest from Chikballapur in 2009 and won.
Dharam Singh, who was the chief minister when the Congress-JD(S) alliance was in power during 2004-06, is the incumbent MP from Bidar in north Karnataka. The 77-year-old looks all set to retain his seat this time too.
Though Shimoga has been the bastion of BJP leader Yeddyurappa, he will be contesting the Lok Sabha polls from here for the first time. After the merger of his Karnataka Janata Paksha with the BJP, the party high command wanted him to contest from Shimoga, a constituency that his son BY Raghavendra won in 2009.
The Lingayats, the dominant community in the state with 18 percent of the vote share, are willing to back their leader Yeddyurappa. On top of it, the BJP is confident about holding on to Shimoga as the people in the region benefited a lot during its five-year rule in the state.
Yeddyurappa was initially reluctant to contest the Lok Sabha polls but agreed later, hoping that if the NDA comes to power, he will get a Cabinet berth.
But the going won’t be easy for the BJP strongman because the JD(S) has Geetha, daughter of former chief minister S Bangarappa and the wife of film star Shivrajkumar. Geetha is considered an outsider as she has lived in Bengaluru for the past two decades. But her father hails from Sorab town in the constituency and belongs to the equally powerful Idiga community.
The combination of political and star power could narrow Yeddyurappa’s victory margin. His tainted image due to corruption cases could also work against him.
Sadananda Gowda is another former chief minister from the coastal belt who is contesting outside his home turf. Gowda had to quit the Lok Sabha in September 2011 after he became the BJP’s second chief minister in Karnataka and was elected to the Legislative Council. After intensely lobbying for a BJP ticket from Bangalore North, he finally succeeded in dislodging sitting MP DB Chandre Gowda. The 60-year-old will lock horns with the Congress’ C Narayanswamy.
The BJP bagged 19 of the 28 Lok Sabha seats in the 2009 General Election, while the Congress won six and the JD(S) three. This time, the party is not expected to repeat the stellar show as the people still haven’t forgotten the five years of the BJP government, which was tainted by successive scams and corruption scandals.
The party was severely punished in last May’s Assembly election, in which it finished third. In fact, the party candidates lost their deposits in 110 of the 224 constituencies.
However, a section of the BJP leaders believe that the party has been punished once and the voters would favour them this time. They are banking on three factors: the prevalent anti-Congress mood in the country, Yeddyurappa’s return to the BJP and the Modi wave.
But opinion polls suggest that the party is unlikely to win more than 13 seats. Political scientist Sandeep Shastry says the Congress is likely to be the single largest party with 15-18 seats. The JD(S) could end up with 1-3 seats.
Meanwhile, the fledgling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has also fielded candidates in all the 28 constituencies and has vowed to defeat Moily, Yeddyurappa and Kumaraswamy whom the party categorised as the “most corrupt”, along with Ananth Kumar and BR Sriramulu of the BJP. Anti-mining crusader SR Hiremath of the Samaj Parivartan Samudaya, which has extended support to AAP, accused the former chief ministers of selling the state’s precious mineral wealth to the mining mafia.