Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi today kept away from BJP's Central Election Committee that met to finalise tickets for Karnataka polls, amid rumours that he did not want to get himself involved in the campaign where the party may not fare well due to corruption charges.
While BJP Central leaders maintained that Modi, appointed to the panel on Sunday, had prior engagements and hence could not make it for the meeting, there is still no clarity whether he will turn up for the second round of the CEC meeting expected to be held on April 9.
Modi will not participate in a Vijay Sankalp Sammellan, a rally to be held in Bangalore on April 8, to kick off BJP's election campaign in Karnataka. Party chief Rajnath Singh, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj and her Rajya Sabha counterpart Arun Jaitley will be present. Modi will be in Delhi on that day to address a programme organised by FICCI ladies organisation.
Asked about Modi's absence, BJP general secretary Ananth Kumar said, "Modi will definitely campaign in Karnataka." But there are murmurs that Modi does not want to be a part of the BJP poll campaign as the party is unlikely to fare well in the southern state. This being the first poll after Modi's elevation to the CEC and the BJP Parliamentary Board, he may not like to fight a losing battle, sources said.
The BJP government in Karnataka has had a chequered run in the last five years which saw the party change two chief ministers. Former Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa has formed his own party and will further dent the BJP's prospects.
BJP declared a list of 140 candidates for Karnataka today. 80 sitting MLAs of the 82 in these constituencies have been given tickets this time. The party is fielding young candidates to improve its prospects with 122 of the names declared being around 40 years of age.
Chief Minister Jagadish Shetter will contest from Hubli- Dharwad Central seat while Deputy Chief Ministers KS Eshwarappa and R Ashok will be in the fray from Shimoga and Padmanaba Nagar constituencies.
Among those given tickets by the BJP, 29 are from the Scheduled Castes, eight from the Scheduled Tribes and 18 from the OBC. Polling will be held on May 5 and counting and declaration of results will take place on May 8 for the 224 constituencies of Karnataka.
Water Resources Minister Basavarj Bommai will contest from Shiggaon, BJP Karnataka Yuva Morcha chief V Sunil Kumar from Karkal, Speaker of Vidhan Sabha K G Boppaiah (Virajpet) and former minister J Krishna Palemar from Mangalore City North.
Ananth Kumar, who is also Secretary of the CEC, said BJP will "unitedly" fight the elections on the development plank.
Before the CEC discussed the ticket distribution today, Shettar made a brief presentation about the political situation in Karnataka. The party still feels Yeddyurappa is likely to wean away a major chunk of the Lingayat votes though Shettar is also from the same community.
The BJP government has been in the news for the past several months for the wrong reasons due to infighting and corruption charges. Yeddyurappa himself was indicted by the Karnataka Lokayukta for corruption in a land deal and was asked by the BJP high command to quit.
Yeddyurappa then floated his Karnataka Janata Party.
Lately, senior BJP leader LK Advani said the decision in Karnataka had come a bit late and there should be no compromise on graft.
Shettar, former chief minister and now national vice president Sadanand Gowda, Karnataka BJP unit chief Prahlad Joshi, R Ashok and general secretary in-charge Dharmendra Pradhan were also present in the CEC meeting.