(BJP announced only the single seat of Wardha, Maharashtra, in its second list. To read analysis of the 1st list click here)
BJP released its third list of candidates for the 16th Lok Sabha election yesterday for two important states of Karnataka and Assam and 4 states where it can at best hope to simply put up a fight for second place in some of the seats – Odisha, West Bengal, Tripura and Kerala. The party is trying hard to avoid ticket distribution in the important north Indian states, which is indeed strange because a similar delay had cost it dearly in Delhi assembly elections recently. A struggling Congress party meanwhile has announced its first list of 194 LS seats and has stolen a march against the BJP for an early localized campaign.
In key North Indian states like Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, Congress candidates would start campaigning from tomorrow, even as regional parties like the Samajwadi Party have announced their lists many weeks ago. But BJP is still reportedly trying to find consensus in these states. Although it is understandable that BJP being the leading party for the 2014 elections has a larger pool of contenders, what is unforgivable is the apparent lack of homework about the unfolding situation. With limited time-period for campaigning, BJP is in danger of losing its nationalized advantage of an energetic Modi campaign due to last minute ticket distribution woes.
Southern Hemisphere: Karnataka and Kerala
In Karnataka, BJP has virtually re-nominated all its sitting MPs and has shown its inherent reluctance for risk taking – which may be the precursor to a national picture of no new faces. It is indeed strange that the party has not shown the gumption to usher in new talent anywhere; be it in the highly urbanized Bangalore region or erstwhile strongholds of coastal and Mumbai Karnataka. Everywhere the same old tired warhorses are trying their luck once again which leaves much to desire for a fast urbanizing India. What happened to names like Anil Kumble that were bandied about till a month ago?
Gulbarga: BJP has re-nominated ex animal husbandry minister, Revu Naik Belamagi for this SC reserved constituency. Not only had he lost this seat in the 2009 LS elections when Karnataka (unlike India) was in a strong BJP wave, but also he had lost the assembly elections in May last year. Congress has the towering Dalit leader and union Railway minister, Mallikarjun Kharge, re-contesting the seat and the only question now is what would be Congress’s victory margin – by all counts it should be closer to a lakh+. Had BJP shown some imagination here, it could have put up a real fight in this constituency, but now that is almost impossible.
Raichur: BJP has nominated ex-minister and former JDS legislator who had joined the BJP during the ‘Operation Lotus’ phase of the party and had later rebelled against the party. He is still a young leader, but has mixed credentials within the BJP fold. Congress is yet to announce a candidate here, but this is one of those seats which the party cannot afford to lose. Last time around, BJP had won this seat purely on the charisma of Sriramulu (who is now reportedly back in the BJP after his brief flirtation with a regional party), but this time BJP is banking more on the Modi wave.
Bijapur: BJP has re-nominated sitting MP, Ramesh Jigjinagi, who still has strong pockets of influence in this constituency. While Congress has given ticket to MLC Prakash Rathod who not only faces the “outsider” tag but also faces rebellion from within the party. Mr. Jigjinagi has won this seat twice in the past (BJP itself has been winning this seat since 1999), while Mr. Rathod has lost this seat thrice in the past. Congress does have an advantage in terms of 7 out 8 assembly segments having Congress legislators, but voters here have the maturity to make distinction between national and local elections.
Bagalkot: is a BJP and a Lingayat stronghold which the party cannot afford to lose. Having re-nominated sitting MP, P.C. Gaddigoudar, BJP has not taken any risks, while Congress is yet to officially announce its candidate. What has muddied the waters this time here is the presence of former Police Commissioner of Bangalore, Shankar Bidari, IPS, either as an independent candidate or possibly even on a JDS or AAP ticket. Bidari being a Lingayat, may hurt BJP’s chances here, for he has influential pockets in Jamakhandi, Ilkal and his home town Banahatti.
Chikkodi: The Katti brothers are virtually undefeatable here, so BJP has re-nominated Ramesh Katti. The only man who can take him on is small scale industries minister in the state Congress government, Prakash Hukkeri, but he is disinclined to fight an MP election and sacrifice his ministry.
Belgaum: BJP has reposed faith in the sitting MP Suresh Angadi, whereas Congress lacks serious candidates. So, this is again a seat that BJP cannot afford to lose. The only X factor that should worry BJP is the shifting loyalties of Marathi voters and the direction the MES takes (Maharashtra Ekikaran Samithi), which has a sitting MLA in the constituency.
Haveri: This was one of the pre-conditions of BSY’s return to the party fold and has been met easily as there was no other leader worth his salt to fight from the Lotus brigade. Shivakumar Udasi had won the seat by a big 90k margin last time around and has a strong chance of winning again. Traditionally, Congress allocates this seat to the minorities, so the party may once again find it difficult to defeat the Udasis here. The two X factors this time are Sriramulu’s re-entry into the BJP, for he still has a lot of influence here especially among his Valmiki community voters and the role of rural development minister in the state Congress government, H.K. Patil, who has stature and influence in the constituency. If H.K. Patil manages to wrest the party ticket for his brother, then it could be a more even fight here.
Dharwad: Another BJP bastion, where state unit president, Prahlad Joshi will re-contesting on the party ticket and has a decent chance of repeating his victory. Although there was some talk of a localized anti-incumbency against the sitting MP in the last few months and the party’s performance even in our own poll survey here was lackluster, Dharwad is one constituency where there is a big Modi wave and Congress is struggling to name its candidate, this is also the area which is known as the birthplace of the LIBRA (Lingayat-Brahmin) social coalition in Karnataka, a mainstay of the BJP.
Koppal: BJP has changed its sitting MP and has nominated former JDS MLA, Karadi Sanganna, who had joined the party during the ‘Operation Lotus’ phase. This is a seat where there is a large presence of Kuruba and OBC voters, so it is a prestige contest for CM, Siddaramaiah, but Congress has not yet announced its candidate. This is one seat that could go to the wires, as it also has areas where both BSY and Sriramulu have influence over voters.
Davangere and Chitradurga: These two central Karnataka districts have seen the most insipid choices by the BJP, for it has simply re-nominated its sitting MPs – S.M. Siddeshwara and Janardhana Swamy, respectively. Congress has nominated sitting MLA, S.S. Mallikarjun (the son of Lingayat strongman Shyamnoor Shivshankarappa) for the Davangere seat and is yet to announce Chitradurga. BJP has once again shown lack of imagination here and may lose both the seats. Even a Modi wave and the return of BSY and Sriramulu may not be able to win either seats for the party, unless Congress bungles up Chitradurga.
Uttara Kannada: This is again a BJP stronghold and the party has re-nominated Anant Kumar hegde for this seat, although there was talk of making a change this time and going for former education minister Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri, which never materialized in the end. This is an area dominated by Brahmin politics and Congress may find it difficult to defeat BJP. Congress hasn’t announced its candidate from here because there is a tussle between two influential leaders, Margret Alva and R.V. Deshpande who both want to secure a ticket to their sons.
Dakshin Kannada: BJP has re-nominated sitting MP, Nalin Kumar Katil, who had been found lacking in multiple surveys conducted in the constituency (including our own survey). Modi wave and Congress’s internal wars may help BJP here eventually, for there is a big fight between old war horse Janardhan Poojary and union minister Veerappa Moily who wants his son, Harsha Moily to contest from here on the Congress ticket. The former still has influence here despite his age, while the latter has tacit support of Rahul Gandhi.
Shimoga: B.S. Yeddyurappa will win this seat easily for the BJP, the only question is about the margin of victory.
Chamrajnagar: BJP has nominated Krishna Murthy from here, whereas Congress has reposed faith in sitting MP, Dhruvanarayana. This being the home district of CM Siddramaiah, Congress should easily win this seat.
Chikkballapur: This is Veerappa Moily constituency, from where BJP has nominated a strong candidate in the form of former agriculture minister B.N. Bachhegowda who has a good influence among the Vokkaliga community present in large numbers here (Moily is an OBC). The two X factors here are – 1) If JDS fields a weak candidate, then it may help BJP consolidate its votes and 2) The presence of a large number of Andhra Reddy voters who had voted for Congress last time due to the YSR factor and may vote for BJP this time due to Sriramulu’s return (he is seen as close to Jagan Reddy). Even surveys have shown that Congress is on a weak wicket here, so Moily may struggle to retain his seat.
Bangalore Rural: BJP is losing rural, where it has nominated Muniraju and Congress has sitting MP D.K. Suresh as its candidate. BJP, in all likelihood, will end up as a distant third here, for the contest will be between Congress and JDS.
Bangalore Central: P.C. Mohan has been once again given BJP ticket, who had won last time as there was a split in the minority votes. This time BJP has shown no courage at all here, for there was a huge need to change the sitting MP; now this is a Congress seat to lose (only if there is some internal sabotage due to ticket distribution). Indications are that Sharief may get the Congress ticket one last time, but if Congress creates hara-kiri and nominates Youth Congress president, Rizwan Arshad, there may be rebellion within Congress, for Sharief is known to be very close to Devegowda.
Bangalore South: Surveys have consistently shown BJP to be ahead in this constituency, but Congress has shown courage by nominating Nandan Nilekani, who may finally prove to be the nemesis of BJP warhorse Anant Kumar. As of today, BJP is ahead in Govindraj Nagar, Basavangudi and Bommanahalli assembly segments, whereas Congress is ahead in BTM layout, Chikpet and Jayanagar assembly segments. In the end analysis, Vijaynagar and Padmanabhanagar assembly segments will decide who wins Bangalore South.
Bangalore North: BJP has nominated former CM Sadanand Gowda, who can be an energetic campaigner and has the backing of BSY too. Here, the one X factor could be the presence of JDS, which can take away Congress’s votes and help BJP. There are many BJP stronghold assembly segments here (Malleshwaram, Dasarahalli, Hebbal etc.) and since Vokkaligas are present in large numbers who count Sadananda Gowda as a leader of the community outside the JDS fold, the party may win this seat. At any rate, among all of Bangalore seats, this is the most-winnable seat for the party, especially since Congress doesn’t have a strong candidate here.
Kasargod: This is a Kerala constituency that has been on the BJP radar since long now and the party has re-nominated K. Surendran from here. He had finished a close second in two out of 7 assembly segments – Manjeshwar and Kasargod, but it would still take a minor miracle for BJP to win this seat notwithstanding a Modi wave.
Thiruvanantapuram: BJP has nominated O. Rajagopal to take on Shashi Tharoor of the Congress. If BJP can somehow make a contest out of this urban constituency by leveraging its online presence, then it can give a fight, especially since Mr. Tharoor is said to be suffering from localized anti-incumbency and is also facing flak for his wife’s death under mysterious circumstances.
Ernakulum is the third BJP seat, from where A.N. Radhakrishnan has been re-nominated, but has little chance of getting an upset victory in this K.V. Thomas constituency.
The East India: Assam, Odisha, West Bengal and Tripura
Except for Assam, BJP’s fight in the rest of east India is merely symbolic, so the party seems to have done with ticket distribution at the earliest to give its candidates enough time to make their presence felt. It is not yet clear if AGP is fully out of the NDA (due to opposition by the local unit of the party), so the Assam list too is incomplete as of now. Since there is an alliance with P.A. Sangma’s NPP, BJP has only announced Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Tripura till now.
Gauhati: This is a Bijoy Chakravarthy and BJP stronghold where they lost only in 2004 because of AGP taking away a lot of votes in Boko, Chayagaon and Palasbari assembly segments. Now AGP doesn’t have any base left here, so the contest would be between Congress and BJP, the former has nominated Manas Bora, who won the much taunted “primaries”, but has great opposition from none other than the Congress CM, Tarun Gogoi. With Congress a divided house and AUDF cutting a small section of Congress’s minority votes, BJP is sitting pretty in Gauhati.
Mangaldoi: This is a sensitive constituency as it is vertically split between Bodos and Bangladeshi Muslims. Mangaldoi and Dalgaon assembly segments have significant Muslim population, whereas Udalguri and Panery are Bodo strongholds. BJP has re-nominated its sitting MP Ramen Deka who will face his big challenge from AUDF, rather than the Congress, which may be virtually out of contest here this time. The X factor of course would be BOPF (Bodo People’s Front), which may cut BJP’s votes if it puts up a strong candidate.
Nowgong: is again a BJP seat, where sitting MP, Rajen Gohain has been re-nominated. Here AUDF had got almost 2 lakh 50k votes last time which had helped the BJP tremendously in defeating Congress. If a similar arithmetic unfolds this time, Then BJP may emerge victorious again.
Lakhimpur: Used to be an AGP stronghold once upon a time when Dr. Arun Sharma had even been an MP, but now this is one of those seats where BJP has gobbled up AGP leadership and cadre. The state unit BJP president, Sarbananda Sonowal, who was once an AGP leader, is the party candidate in Lakhimpur and can give a tough fight to union tribal affairs minister, Ranee Narah, the Congress strongwoman who has won this seat many times in the past. The one X factor here is anti-incumbency, which is affecting the Congress both locally as well as nationally.
Jorhat: This is an out and out Congress stronghold represented by former union minister, B.K. Handique, who has never lost the seat in close to three decades. BJP has once again fielded the young and dynamic, Kamakhya Prasad Tasa, of the Tea tribe community who had given sleepless nights to Congress strongman in the 2009 polls.
In Odisha, the one seat of considerable interest would be Balasore, where BJP has fielded sitting MLA, Pratap Sarangi who has a chance of becoming a giant killer if he can possibly defeat Srikant Jena, union minister for chemicals and fertilizers. BJP still has pockets of influence in Nilgiri, Remuna and Jaleswar assembly segments and Congress is battling huge anti-incumbency, while this is one seat where there is limited influence of the ruling BJD.
In the rest of the seats announced in the 3rd list from West Bengal (17), Tripura (3) and Odisha (4), BJP candidates will find it difficult even to not lose their deposits. Among other interesting features, BJP has given MP tickets to two Muslims in WB and singer Babul Supriyo would be adding star power to the contest in Asansol parliamentary constituency, while national spokesperson and the chief Editor of Pioneer, Chandan Mitra is contesting from Hooghly.