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Can Mature Voters, Incumbency, Internal Rift Help Congress Breach BJP Fortress Bengaluru in 2019?

A News18 creative by Mir Suhail.

A News18 creative by Mir Suhail.

In the last Assembly election, it was Bengaluru that ruined the BJP’s chances of coming to power by electing 16 Congress MLAs. However, the BJP has been winning all the parliamentary seats in the city since 2004.

Bengaluru: India’s IT capital, Bengaluru, is a strange megapolis. The Congress always does well here in the Assembly election and the city’s civic board has always been with the grand old party, except twice, since 1948. However, voters here have been sending BJP candidates to the Lok Sabha for the past 15 years.

Some describe it as mature voting with different preferences for the Assembly and Parliament, while others attribute it to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s success, factionalism within the Congress or “adjustment” politics.

In the last Assembly election, it was Bengaluru that ruined the BJP’s chances of coming to power by electing 16 Congress MLAs. The saffron party managed to bag 11 seats, while the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) got two.

However, the BJP has been winning all the parliamentary seats in the city since 2004. Before delimitation of constituencies, the state capital had just two Lok Sabha seats — Bangalore South and Bangalore North.

In 2009, the Bangalore Central constituency was created. Two other seats — Bangalore Rural and Chikkaballapura — also have some city areas under them. Voters here, though, have gone against the BJP.

For the first time, the capital city is witnessing a fierce battle between Congress and BJP.

Bangalore South

Union Minister Ananth Kumar, who had won six straight elections from the seat, died in November, last year, and everyone was expecting his widow, Tejaswini, to contest on a BJP ticket this time. She had even opened a campaign office in the constituency.

In a sudden midnight development, the party high command recently fielded 28-year-old Tejaswi Surya, an RSS favourite. After initial opposition to his candidature, the local leadership seems to have decided to campaign for him.

BJP national president Amit Shah held a 45-minute roadshow in the constituency on Tuesday and made sure that Tejaswini was also a part of it.

The Congress has fielded party veteran and Rajya Sabha MP BK Hariprasad from the same seat. Hariprasad, who had lost to Ananth Kumar by 65,000 votes in 1999, is trying his luck after 20 years.

The Congress last won the seat in 1989 when former chief minister R Gundurao romped home with a 2 lakh margin.

The saffron party is quite strong in the seat and Tejaswi Surya is seeking votes in the name of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP. He openly admits that he is just an ordinary worker and the real candidate is the party and Modi.

The caste composition is also favouring the BJP with 5.5 lakh Brahmin voters in the seat. According to available data, it also has 4.5 lakh Vokkaligas, 3 lakh Muslims and about 1 lakh Christian, SC/ST and OBC voters.

The Congress is hoping that its alliance with the JD-S, led by former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda, would fetch a large number of Gowda votes to its kitty.

“After the income tax raid on the Gowda family’s associates, the Vokkaligas are angry with the BJP. Deve Gowda is also consolidating their votes against the BJP. Hnce, we still have some chances here,” said Manjunath, a local Congress worker.

Historically, the constituency has registered a low turnout with less than 50% voting. The Congress feels the low turnout might help the party this time if it manages to bring its supporters in large numbers to polling booths.

Many people, including those in the Congress, feel that Tejaswini is very popular in the seat and the BJP would have easily won had she been fielded.

Three powerful BJP MLAs from the constituency — R Ashoka, V Somanna and Satish Reddy — seem to be reluctantly campaigning for Tejaswi Surya. However, his supporters claim that people would vote for Modi and local political differences wouldn’t matter much.

The BJP has five and Congress has three legislators here.

Bangalore Central

This new constituency has been with the BJP since its inception. Sitting MP PC Mohan is known for being accessible and his humility. A non-controversial, soft-spoken Mohan is liked in the constituency.

With an aim to wrest the seat, the grand old party has fielded MLC (Member of Legislative Council) and young leader Rizwan Arshad from here. Caste and religion composition of the seat seem to be favouring the Congress this time. The constituency has about 40% minority voters, whom the Congress is targeting. The party has five MLAs, including veterans Dinesh Gundurao, KJ George, Roshan Baig, NA Harris and Zameer Ahmed Khan, here.

Arshad, who lost to Mohan in 2014 by a lakh votes, is banking on the clout of these MLAs to realise his dream of entering Parliament. He has been aggressively campaigning across the seat and exudes confidence.

“Last time, there was a manufactured Modi wave. This time there is nothing. People are angry with the Centre. I am winning this election,” Arshad told News18.

However, Mohan is banking on the Modi “wave” for a hat-trick. The BJP has three MLAs here.

Bangalore North

This seat is witnessing the fiercest battle with the Congress fielding Cabinet Minister Krishna Byregowda against Union Minister DV Sadananda Gowda from here.

Though the seat has been with the BJP since 2004, each time, a new face was elected. In 2004, retired IPS officer H T Sangliana opened the saffron party’s account by defeating Congress stalwart CK Jaffer Sharief, who had won seven straight terms from here since 1977.

Later, Sangliana defected to the Congress in 2008 when the nuclear deal with the United States was in news.

In 2009, former Congress veteran D B Chandre Gowda won on a BJP ticket, while 2014 saw former chief minister Sadananda Gowda as the party candidate.

At present, the constituency has five Congress MLAs, two JD-S legislators and a lone BJP face. The grand old party’s candidate, Krishna Byregowda, is urbane and has youth appeal. His personal charisma and clean image are expected to help him big at the hustings and is seemed to have unnerved Sadananda Gowda, who is also facing anti-incumbency.

Among all the three seats in the IT city, the Congress is supremely confident of wresting this seat back from the BJP this election.

Would the grand old party be able to break the Bengaluru jinx? One has to wait till May 23.