The Congress is banking on transfer of its coalition partner JDS's votes to clinch victory in Karnataka's South Bengaluru Lok Sabha constituency, where the grand old party has pitted veteran leader B K Hariprasad against BJP's 28-year-old Tejasvi Surya. Though Hariprasad (64) is confident that the Congress's alliance with the JDS will help him win the seat, his young rival exuded confidence that people will vote for him seeing Prime Minister Narendra Modi's performance. "The JDS, our coalition partner, has huge pockets (of votes) in assembly segments like Basavanagudi, Padmanabhanagar and Bommanahalli. Our alliance with Deve Gowda and his party are benefitting us," Hariprasad said.
Hariprasad made the remarks when Chief Minister and JDS leader H D Kumaraswamy campaigned for him in the constituency's Vijaynagar assembly segment recently. In the last assembly elections, the combined Congress and JDS votes in all eight assembly segments of South Bengaluru Lok Sabha constituency are 5,65,548, while BJP received 5,70,949. The difference is barely 5,401, he said.
There are 5.5 lakh Brahmin voters in the seat. It also has 4.5 lakh Vokkaliga, three lakh Muslim and about one lakh Christian, SC, ST and OBC voters, according to available data. Backward classes cumulatively account for about 40 per cent of votes and Muslims and Dalits account for 30 per cent in the constituency.
Hariprasad, with an experience of almost two decades, said his vision is to protect the nation and the Constitution. "I am fighting for defending democracy and restoring democratic institutions. I want a 33 per cent reservation for women to be implemented. I want to bring back the glory and the cosmopolitan culture of Bengaluru," he told PTI.
"Our workers are sweating it out to educate people to come out and vote in large numbers to get a strong and stable government at the Centre," he said. Union minister Ananth Kumar had held the seat since 1996. Kumar passed away last year and the BJP has fielded Surya, who is a lawyer and party's youth wing leader, this time.
The BJP's choice of candidate came as a surprise to many in the party who were expecting Kumar's wife, Tejaswini Ananth Kumar, to get the ticket. Dismissing reports of differences within the party's Karnataka unit over his nomination, Surya exuded confidence that the BJP would once again retain the seat.
"It takes time for things to settle down when a fresh development takes place. After a roadshow of party president Amit Shah, things have changed. I am getting support and blessings of senior leaders including V Somanna and Ashok," he said. "They have also been campaigning for me. I am expecting people to vote for (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi and I am least bothered about media reports about differences (within the party unit)," Surya added.
In the 2014 general election, the Congress had fielded Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani. He managed to poll 36.39 per cent votes against Kumar's 57 per cent. Kumar was considered a moderate saffron leader. His success was attributed to his ability to reach out to Brahmins and Vokkaligas - who account for about 10 per cent each of the total electorate of 22.16 lakh.
In contrast, Surya is perceived as a staunch RSS ideologue who doesn't shy away from making pro-Hindutva statements that sometimes make minority voters uncomfortable. Lok Sabha polls will be held in seven phases from 11 April to 23 May. Polling will be held in Bangalore South in the second phase on 18 April. Results will be announced on 23 May.
(With inputs from agencies.)