MYSURU: The BJP has made a paradigm shift in Karnataka by daring to replace the popular B S Yediyurappa -- probably with a younger leader -- with an eye on the 2023 Assembly elections. What it has not quite taken into account is that Yediyurappa’s successor is likely to have many challenges ahead, and not much time to prepare for the Legislative Council and panchayat polls around the corner.
Panchayat polls are considered to be a semi-final of the Assembly polls, with 60 percent of the state electorate voting, and could throw up future trends.
A strong leader’s presence is a must for the BJP to return to power on its own, overriding anti-incumbency. The BJP will have to capture rural panchayats for a strong foundation, and shed its image as an urban party. Though the Graduates and Teachers constituencies, over the decades, are considered to be safe seats for the BJP, elections to 25 Legislative Council seats from local authorities are slated to be held before July 2022.
Though the cabinet has decided to put off panchayat polls till December, citing the prevailing pandemic situation, it is up to the State Election Commission to decide on the fate of the elections, which will test the mettle of the new leadership.There are 3,902 seats in 176 Taluk Panchayats and 1,083 seats in 31 Zilla Panchayats that will go to polls.
The new Chief Minister, with less than 21 months to go for assembly elections, should have the ability to sink differences and fight polls as one unit, taking along the strong Veerashaiva vote bank and others. He will have to work on social engineering to take on the opposition Congress and JDS in Old Mysuru region effectively.
Apart from dealing with these forces, he should also keep himself in the good books of Yediyurappa and his family, as it would be difficult for any Chief Minister to face elections without Yediyurappa or son Vijayendra, and also keep the opposition at bay. Their absence or neglect will not go down well with party cadres and the Lingayat community. The new Chief Minister should also live up to the expectations of the high command and take along all 17 migrants who are responsible for installing the BJP government in power.
The Congress, that launched its ‘100 Not Out’ campaign against fuel prices and reached out to people during the pandemic, has already built pressure on the State Election Commission to conduct panchayat polls on time. The JDS, that is keenly watching developments in the BJP, has started groundwork for polls in pockets where it has a strong presence Vokkaliga-dominated constituencies in Old Mysuru.