Karnataka is a three-cornered battle between the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party and Janata Dal (Secular). But it is as much a clash of personalities. Here are the top five individual battles to watch out for.
1. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s Dual Battle
Siddaramaiah is contesting from Chamundeswari, Mysuru in south Karnataka and Badami, Bagalkot in the north, hoping to become the first Karnataka chief minister to beat anti-incumbency. This invited jibes from the BJP’s star campaigner, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who called it the “2 plus 1 formula” (two seats for Siddaramaiah and one for his son Yathindra). The Congress leader is not going to have it easy in either.
Siddaramaiah has won from Chamundeswari five times. That may count for little now as he is up against Janata Dal (Secular)’s sitting legislator GT Devegowda, a prominent leader from the Vokkaliga community who was once the Chief Minister’s associate. The BJP has fielded relatively-unknown Gopal Rao, reducing it to a two-way contest. The Congress accused the BJP and the JD(S) of having a tacit understanding.
In Badami, Siddaramaiah will face off against BJP strongman B Sriramulu, who is a close aide of mining baron G Janardhana Reddy. Sriramulu belongs to the ST community and is being projected as the deputy chief ministerial candidate to woo the community. The bitter campaign reached a crescendo when a video clip surfaced in which Sriramulu allegedly bribed a Supreme Court judge to influence the verdict on a case related to illegal mining in which Reddy was the accused.
2. On Home Turf, Yeddyurappa Has It Easy
The BJP’s chief ministerial candidate, BS Yeddyurappa, is contesting from his home turf of Shikaripura in Shivamogga district—a seat he has won seven times. The region has a sizeable Lingayat population — the community to which he belongs — and the former chief minister is expected to win. The JD(S) candidate HT Baligar, a fellow-Lingayat who has been campaigning aggressively, is at best expected to pose a hiccup. The Congress has fielded a relatively unknown candidate, GB Malathesh.
3. Kumaraswamy Contesting From Two Seats
The adjoining constituencies of Channapatna and Ramanagara in south Karnataka are only 15 kilometres apart. This is where the third chief ministerial hopeful and JD(S) leader, HD Kumaraswamy, is in the fray. Ramanagaram is considered Kumaraswamy’s stronghold where he boasts of a hat-trick of electoral wins. With both the Congress and the BJP not fielding known faces against him, the one-time chief minister is expected to coast to a victory.
That’s not so in Channapatna, a town known for its handicrafts and wooden toys. While the Congress has fielded state transport minister HM Revanna, BJP’s sitting MLA CP Yogeshwar is hoping to win here a third time. Yogeshwar defeated Kumaraswamy’s wife, Anita, in the 2008 elections.
4. Siddaramaiah Vacates Stronghold For Son Yathindra
The sons of Yeddyurappa and Siddaramaiah were expected to contest against each other in Varuna. With the BJP denying BY Vijayendra a ticket, that possibility was averted. A doctor by profession, Yathindra Siddaramaiah is making his electoral debut. He is banking on the goodwill for his father.
Yathindra will be challenged by BJP’s Basavaraju, who has been running a strong campaign. By denying the ticket to Vijayendra, the BJP drummed up the charge of nepotism against the Congress.
5. Somasekhara Reddy: BJP’s Ace Or Achilles’ Heel?
Ballari is crucial for several reasons, the most prominent one being the BJP has fielded G Somasekhara Reddy, the brother of G Janardhana Reddy, the mining baron who was implicated in an illegal mining case in 2011. Iron ore-rich Ballari was where the mining scam played out during the tenure of former CM BS Yeddyurappa. A report on illegal mining by former Lokayukta Justice Santosh Hegde landed him in jail. The BJP subsequently distanced itself from the Reddy brothers, but they are back ahead of the elections.
Seven tickets have been given to kin and associates of the Reddy. Ironically, the Congress and JD(S) have also fielded mining industrialists against Somasekhara Reddy — sitting MLA Anil Lad and Iqbal Hothur, respectively. A recent appeal by Janardhana Reddy to campaign in Ballari was rejected by the Supreme Court.