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Lok Sabha Elections: Karnataka to go to polls tomorrow, hot contest between BJP, Congress

Wednesday, 16 April 2014 - 10:08am IST | Place: Bangalore | Agency: PTI

Karnataka will go to the polls tomorrow in a single phase with the battlelines clearly delineated for a bipolar contest between the ruling Congress and BJP in all but six of the 28 Lok Sabha constituencies.

Both principal players see tidings in their favour. After a heartbreak defeat in the May Assembly polls last year, BJP is gung ho about a comeback, while the Congress is portraying a picture of confidence of bagging 20 seats.

Some 85,000 security personnel, including the central forces, will provide security cover across the state with 54,294 polling booths, 8,658 of which are identified as hyper sensitive and 14,400 as sensitive.

In the 2009 polls, BJP then holding the reins of power had pulled off a stellar performance winning 19 seats, leaving six to Congress and three to JDS led by former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda.

It is a reversal of this trend Congress is targeting to maximise gains, when a total of 4.62 crore voters are expected to make their choice from among 435 candidates.

Congress is hoping to replicate its Assembly performance when it swept to power winning 122 of the 224 seats, dethroning the first-ever BJP government in the South. Pushed to the third place, BJP is looking for a turnaround in its fortunes.

The fight between Congress and BJP is direct in at least 22 constituencies with many imponderables and triangular in the rest where the JDS is in the reckoning.
Among the battles, the most keenly watched is Bangalore South constituency where Nandan Nilekani, face of UPA's marquee programme Aadhar and billionaire co-founder of Infosys is fighting BJP's formidable opponent Ananth Kumar, a five-time MP. Nilekani with his and wife's declared wealth of Rs 7,700 crore is the richest among the candidates who have entered the fray so far in the country.

Politically highly conscious, middle and lower middle class dominated Bangalore South has never been receptive to Congress since the late 1970s, barring once in 1989.

The spotlight is also on former Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa, who is seeking to enter Parliament in his second bid after failing in the first, from Shimoga where is he is facing Githa Shivarajkumar, daughter of former Chief Minister S Bangarappa.

Other keenly watched contests are Gowda (Hassan), Union Minister M Veerappa Moily (Chikkaballapur), H D Kumaraswamy (Chikkaballapur), N Dharam Singh (Bidar) and D V Sadananda Gowda (Bangalore North), all former Chief Ministers.

Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is also seeking to gain a toehold, fielding candidates for all constituencies, the prominent being former Infosys Director Balakrishnan who is in the fray from Bangalore Central.

Chief Minister Siddarmaiah is playing for high stakes as the outcome could have a bearing on his political standing within the party with a good show being a deterrent against any move to threaten his seat. He has borne the brunt of campaign burden criss-crossing the state.

BJP expects that the return of Yeddyurappa would bring significant gains as he could consolidate the votes of Lingayats, numerically No 1 community. Despite opposition by BJP senior leader Sushma Swaraj, B Sriramulu was also brought into the party, which hopes for incremental electoral value with his influence in Valmiki community.

The party is also heavily banking on the Modi factor to tilt the scales in its favour, particularly among young voters. Seeing a fertile electoral ground in Karnataka, Modi campaigned vigorously addressing 10 rallies seeking to give a cutting edge to the party.

Congress, on one hand, believes people have still not forgotten or forgiven BJP for its "misdeeds" and would make it pay in the Lok Sabha polls too. On the other, it is touting its welfare schemes like rice for Re 1 per kg for the poor.

It has broadly been a steady rise for BJP in Karnataka, the ground for which was laid in 1991 when it won four Lok Sabha seats with a dramatic ascent to 18 in 2004 and to 19 in 2009.


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