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No Southern Friends For BJP, Except in Tamil Nadu, Has Party Betting Big on Karnataka


Bengaluru: Even as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is firming up alliances with regional parties in different states ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, the party is beginning to give its campaign a big push in Karnataka, where it has the most number of seats among all southern states.

The party hasn’t found allies in any southern state other than Tamil Nadu, so will be going it alone in Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

Karnataka BJP president BS Yeddyurappa, on the backfoot all of last week after the leak of an audio tape where he is allegedly heard trying to get rival party MLAs to defect to the BJP, said on Monday that he is confident of increasing the party’s tally from its current 16 by at least five or six seats in the general elections.

Karnataka has 28 Lok Sabha seats, of which two are currently held by Deve Gowda’s Janata Dal (Secular), 10 are with the Congress and 16 with the BJP (one seat, the Bangalore South constituency whose MP Ananth Kumar passed away recently, is vacant).
The BJP has barely any footprint across the other southern States — Pon Radhakrishnan being its lone MP in Tamil Nadu, zero Lok Sabha MPs in Kerala. The tie-up with the Telugu Desam Party in AP had helped the BJP win just two seats out of 25 in the last general election in 2014 — and that tie-up too has broken down now. In Telangana again, it has just one MP out of the 17 seats.

Its best showing was in Karnataka in 2014 and the party is hoping to recreate the tally against the Congress-JDS alliance which is in power in the State. The Congress-JDS too has begun its internal calculations on how to share the Lok Sabha seats between them to counter the BJP.

The Congress on Monday began its preliminary election meetings on identifying candidates to counter the BJP. The JDS is looking at contesting in around 10 to 12 seats, primarily in south Karnataka, while conceding the lion’s share of the 28 seats to the bigger ally Congress.

Alliance coordination committee chairman and former CM Siddaramaiah has said that they would have to finalise the seat-sharing by end of February, though election announcement is unlikely before first week of March — if not the candidates, at least which party will contest which seat will be finalised, while a tentative list of candidates is also getting drawn up.

The JDS’ national executive met in the last week of January, with the party demanding one-third of the seats in Karnataka. Though the party has only two sitting MPs, the party feels its chances of sending more MPs to the Lok Sabha has improved as its alliance with the Congress makes it a formidable front — not just going by the votes polled in the Assembly elections in 2018 but looking at caste-calculations in each constituency and looking at uniting the anti-BJP votes.

| Edited by: Ahona Sengupta

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