The BJP in Karnataka is hoping to ride on a perceived ‘Modi wave’, but its MPs in northern Karnataka, who have enjoyed power for up to three terms, are battling an anti-incumbency sentiment of their own.
In 2009, North Karnataka had decisively voted for the BJP, giving it 10 out of 12 seats. Bidar and Gulbarga were the only exceptions, choosing to go with Dharam Singh and Mallikarjun Kharge of the Congress. But a lot has changed since.
The BJP, darling of the Lingayats during B S Yeddyurappa’s regime, fared miserably in last year’s Assembly elections in the Lingayat-dominated region, winning just 19 of 96 seats.
This time, the party is banking heavily on the ‘Modi wave’ to repeat its 2009 Lok Sabha performance. But is the wave strong enough to carry the MPs through? Not everyone is convinced it is.
Political observers say MPs seeking re-election for more than two terms naturally face a fatigue factor.
These MPs include Prahlad Joshi (Dharwad), Suresh
Angadi (Belgaum), P C Gaddigoudar (Bagalkot), Ananthkumar Hegde (Karwar), Ramesh Jigajinagi (Bijapur) and G M Siddesh (Davangere).
In Dharwad, the going has become tough for Prahlad Joshi as district Congress leaders have united like never before to ensure the victory of party candidate Vinay Kulkarni.
A major chunk of Lingayats (who make up four lakh voters) are inclined towards the Congress as Kulkarni not only belongs to the community but is also seen as a promising Lingayat leader.
Sri Rama Sene chief Pramod Mutalik’s entry into the fray is another worry for Prahlad Joshi: Mutalik could eat into Hindutva votes, the core constituency of the BJP.In Karwar, Ananthkumar Hegde is up against a strong anti-incumbency sentiment as he has been an MP since 1996. His inaccessibility to voters and lacklustre record might also work against him. He also faces corruption charges.Ananthkumar Hegde’s mail rival is Prashant, son of Higher Education Minister R V Deshpande. More importantly, Margaret Alva, R V Deshpande’s political rival within the Congress and now Rajasthan Governor, is neutral, and isn’t going all out to wreck Prashant’s chances.Angadi, Jigajinagi and Gaddigoudar are up against tough challengers this time.