High stakes for BJP in Karnataka’s final phase (Poll Curtainraiser – Karnataka)

Bangalore, April 29 (Inditop) The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), ruling Karnataka for the first time, faces a tough challenge in retaining its dominance over the 11 Lok Sabha constituencies going to the polls in the second round of the state’s parliamentary polls Thursday.

Of the 11 constituencies — Dharwad, Haveri, Bagalokot, Dakshina Kannada, Udupi-Chikmagalur, Shimoga, Davangere, Hassan, Mysore, Mandya and Chamarajnagar — the BJP bagged eight in the 2004 polls, with the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) taking two and the Congress just one.

The eight constituencies are Bagalkot, Dharwad, Davanagere, Shimoga, Dakshina Kannada, Mysore, Udupi-Chikmagalur and Haveri. The last two constituencies were created after the redrawing of Lok Sabha seats. They were known as Udupi and Dharwad South which were won by BJP in 2004.

JD-S had won Hassan and Chamarajnagar and the Congress bagged Mandya.

BJP lost the Shimoga seat as former chief minister S. Bangarappa quit the party and the Lok Sabha in 2005 and won from there in a bypoll as a Samajwadi Party candidate.

The BJP appears pretty strong in the north Karnataka constituencies of Dharwad, Haveri, Bagalkot, central Karnataka seat of Davangere, part coastal Udupi-Chikmagalur and southern Mysore.

It faces stiff opposition in the other southern Karnataka seats of Hassan, Mandya and Chamarajnagar where the battle is between the Congress and the JD-S.

In the coastal constituency of Dakshina Kannada, Congress is hoping its veteran B. Janardhana Poojary, former central minister, will end the BJP stranglehold. His BJP opponent is Nalin Kumar Katilu, a former Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) worker.

The anger over the brutal beating up of girls in a Mangalore pub in January by members of a Hindu group and the increasing incidence of moral policing could help Poojary.

Shimoga could go the BJP way as Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa has fielded his son B. Y. Raghavendra and has campaigned vigorously to ensure his victory.

JD-S president and former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda seems set to retain his Hassan seat where his Vokkaliga community voters dominate.

Though the BJP and the Congress have also fielded candidates from the same community, Gowda has tried to overcome the possible anti-incumbency factor by declaring that this is his last election battle as he turns 76 in May.

State BJP chief D. V. Sadananda Gowda is seeking the mandate from Udupi-Chikmagalur for the first time. Five years back he had won from Dakshina Kannada.

In Mandya, Kannada film star and minister of state for information and broadcasting M.H. Ambareesh of Congress is having a difficult time retaining the seat against JD-S’ N. Cheluvarayaswamy, a former minister, and L. Shivarame Gowda, a former Congress member contesting on BJP ticket.

Including these political heavyweights, there are 156 candidates in the field for the second and last phase of polling in the state for the 28 seats.

Voting took place in 17 constituencies on April 23.

More than 15.5 million people, including 7.67 million women, are eligible to vote Thursday in 18,426 polling booths in the 11 constituencies.

Around 55,000 security personnel and an equal number of poll officials will conduct the voting.