Bangalore, March 20: The four major players in the Karnataka political spectrum had been on their toes all along, their battle-readiness prompted by the infighting in the ruling BJP and the consequent wariness that its wobbly government may not last its term.
The wait for the Congress, BJP, Janata Dal (secular) and the Karnataka Janata Party (KJP) of B.S. Yeddyurappa — ended today with the Central Election Commission announcing May 5 as the polling date for the state’s 224 Assembly constituencies.
The parties had been preparing their leaders and workers for an April grind. Recent elections to 207 urban local bodies had also got the cadres in motion.
But in May they will have to endure the summer heat that touches 34°C in Bangalore and more than 40°C in the northern districts.
All four parties today declared that they were finalising their candidate lists and would go it alone. Caste equations are expected to play a major role in the choice of nominees.
In Karnataka, the Lingayats (21%) and Vokkaligas (18%) are the dominant castes, besides the backward classes (40%) who dictate terms in the rural areas. Muslims who form 12 per cent of the electorate also play a major role in votebank politics.
“We are ready and united in our objective,” said chief minister Jagadish Shettar, the main Lingayat leader in the BJP in the absence of Yeddyurappa, its former general and principal vote catcher in the 2008 elections.
“We are telling the voters about the development during the last five years (of BJP rule),” said Shettar who evaded queries on the disunity in the party that led to the selection of three chief ministers in five years.
The party, which faced a drubbing in its strongholds in the recent elections to the urban local bodies, is likely to choose a new state president. “We will announce a new state president soon,” said health minister S.A. Ramdas.
Deputy chief minister K.S. Eshwarappa resigned from the state BJP president’s post nearly two weeks ago, a decision that reflected disunity in the party where many were gunning for him using the one-man-one-post norm it follows.
The health minister, however, parried questions on the possibility of patching up with Yeddyurappa.
Opposition leader in the Assembly, P.C. Sidharamiah of the Congress, said: “Our final list of candidates will be ready by the end of March and we are sure to win and form a majority government.”
Sidharamiah, a backward class leader, is expected to play a big role in the coming weeks as the Congress is forecast to do better than in 2008 and perhaps even get close to the half-way mark in the 224-seat Assembly.
The Janata Dal (secular) put to rest speculation of its likely collaborations by announcing that it would go to the polls alone. There were talks that the party might join hands with the KJP.
State party president H.D. Kumaraswamy told reporters: “We have almost finalised the candidates list which will be released this weekend.”
Kumaraswamy said his father, former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda, would start campaigning shortly. “I myself have travelled extensively in 94 constituencies already,” he said.
Close confidante of Yeddyurappa and former BJP minister, Shobha Karandlaje, said: “We will have no alliances with any party as the KJP is capable of winning on its own.”