With Karnataka elections 2023 just a month away, the BJP seems to be in the final stage of deciding its list of candidates.
However, the party is on a sticky wicket in the southern state. Several leaders have demanded party tickets for their “family members and friends”, even as the BJP has been denouncing “dynasty politics” and “nepotism” in rival political formations.
Additionally, the saffron party is also facing the heat of a possible rebellion in more than 40 Assembly constituencies.
Over the weekend, the BJP central leadership will sit with the state leaders to iron out differences and finalise its candidates for Karnataka’s 224 Assembly segments.
All eyes on election committee meeting
All eyes are now on the BJP Central election committee meeting, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi will chair on Sunday, 9 April. Union Home Minister Amit Shah, the party’s national president JP Nadda, and other senior leaders will attend the meeting.
The BJP is likely to release its first list of candidates by Monday, 10 April.
Other political parties, including the Congress, JD(S), and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), have announced their candidates for most of the Assembly seats going to the polls on 10 May.
Faced with infighting in several constituencies, the BJP conducted “preliminaries” at the district level, asking its cadres to cast votes to choose their candidates.
The Karnataka’s BJP unit chaired a state Core Committee meeting to shortlist the candidates for all the Assembly seats on 4 and 5 March. The candidates’ shortlist will be scrutinised at the two-day meeting, which began at 11 am in Delhi on Saturday, 8 April.
Looming threat of rebellion
The possible rebellion and dissent by ticket aspirants in many Assembly seats has turned out to be a big headache for the BJP.
The state Core Committee has finalised the names of at least two to three aspirants each in over 120 Assembly seats, party sources told South First.
Demands by leaders like Ramesh Jarkiholi to accommodate his choice of candidates have put the party under the pressure of choosing “newcomers” or “loyalists”.
Jarkiholi had led a team of 17 defectors from the Congress-JDS coalition in 2019 to the BJP and ensured the saffron party’s return to power.
With the party planning to drop senior incumbent legislators, demands to accommodate their family members or friends, too, had added to the party’s woes.
In several seats, the competition is between aspirants from different camps within the BJP.
The aspirants have threatened to quit the party and contest as independent candidates, if the party denies them tickets. Interestingly, there are multiple aspirants for several seats.
With the Basavaraj Bommai government’s recent decision on internal reservation for Scheduled Castes, the BJP has been facing severe flak from the Banjara and Bhovi communities.
Ticket distribution in reserved constituencies to offset this damage has caused further trouble to the BJP.
In Mysuru’s Krishnaraja Assembly seat, the fight is between the former minister and incumbent MLA Ramdas and Mysuru Urban Development Authority’s former chairman HV Rajeev.
In the Chamaraja Assembly seat sitting MLA Nagendra has locked horns with actor-cum-politician Jayaprakash.
Incumbent Minister for Infrastructure Development and Govindraj Nagar MLA V Somanna and party worker Rudresh are fighting for the Chamarajanagar seat.
In Belagavi’s Athani Assembly seat, former deputy chief minister and MLC Laxman Savadi and incumbent MLA Mahesh Kumatali are vying with each other for the ticket.
Similarly, there are likely revolts brewing in Koppal, Mudigere, Ron, Chittapur, Shivamogga, Vijayapura, Athani, Haveri, Channagiri, Kalghatgi, Kundgol, Hirekerur, Ranebennur, and a few other Assembly seats, party sources said.
Responding to the possible dissent among leaders, former chief minister BS Yediyurappa, who is also a member of the Central Parliamentary Board, told reporters: “The candidates’ shortlist will be discussed in detail with the party high command and the names will be finalised.”
“There is a lot of pressure in sure seats as there are three to five aspirants. We have already shortlisted the names of two to three aspirants in each segment and sent the list to the high command,” Yediyurappa said.
Stating that winnability is the main criterion, he added, “Based on winnability and the advice of the high command, the tickets will be finalised. The candidates list will be released in two to three days.”
Jarkiholi wants three seats
BJP’s former minister and Gokak MLA Ramesh Jarkiholi, who played a key role in herding Congress and JD(S) MLAs to the saffron party, has demanded three out of the 18 Assembly seats in Belagavi.
He demanded tickets for Mahesh Kumtali, Nagesh Manolikar, and Srimanth Patil in Athani, Belagavi Rural, and Kagwad Assembly seats, respectively.
“If the party doesn’t meet my demands, I will not contest and retire from politics,” he threatened.
On the directions of Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, Union Minister for Parliamentary Affairs and Coals and Mines Pralhad Joshi held a meeting to resolve the dispute between Jarkiholi and MLC and former minister Laxman Savadi at Hubballi recently.
“The party high command has given clear directions to him (Jarkiholi) not to interfere in finalising the tickets for any Assembly seats, including Athani in Belagavi,” Savadi told South First.
“I have also asked for the party ticket based on the demand raised by the people in my constituency. The final decision will be taken by the central leadership at the Parliamentary Board meeting,” he added.
At the state Core Committee meeting, Savadi said: “The party has said several times that its nominees will be announced only after the poll date is declared. The party will announce the candidates by 10 April.”
“We had a detailed discussion about all the segments, mainly on those seats where the party might face rebellion. Based on winnability, the party has shortlisted the candidates and sent it to the high command,” he said, adding that the party has enough time to campaign before the polls.
BJP may prefer Banjara to Bhovi
The recent protests by the Banjara community opposing the internal reservations are also worrying the party. To pacify the community, the BJP is planning to give them more tickets than the Bhovi and other SC communities.
Of the total 224 Assembly seats, 36 are reserved for SCs and 15 for STs.
Refuting the existence of such a strategy, BJP SC Morcha president and MLC Chalavadi Narayanswamy told South First: “The party will follow the same equations that were followed in the previous elections while distributing tickets to SC and ST candidates.”
“The state government has fulfilled the demands of Banjara and other SC communities by increasing their reservation quota from 3 percent to 4.5 percent. There is no question of revolt,” he claimed.
“The state leadership held talks with the protesting Banjara leaders. The entire community is with the BJP. We will come out with flying colours in the coming Assembly polls,” Narayanswamy added.