Bengaluru: Karnataka appears set for big fights in two constituencies as the ruling BJP has fielded formidable leaders against Congress heavyweights Siddaramaiah and DK Shivakumar in a dramatic move to raise the stakes in the May 10 Assembly elections in the state. But State Congress chief Shivakumar and Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Siddaramaiah appeared unfazed on Wednesday.
Announcing its first list of 189 candidates on Tuesday, the BJP pitted senior Minister R Ashoka against Siddaramaiah in the Varuna Assembly segment, while V Somanna would take on Shivakumar in Kanakapura.
“Let him contest, I welcome him…Whoever contests against me, I welcome them,” said Siddaramaiah, a former Chief Minister.
Shivakumar said: “I wish him (Ashoka) good luck. There should be a fight in politics. It is not new to me as I had fought against H D Deve Gowda in 1985, later against H D Kumaraswamy. My life is a struggle, I will continue to fight”.
According to party sources, the BJP leadership’s intention behind this move seems to be aimed at ensuring that both Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar are tied down to their respective segments to the extent possible, so that their campaigning and strategising in other constituencies for Congress’ victory would be limited.
Both Shivakumar and Siddaramaiah have reportedly told the Congress central leadership that they would visit their constituencies only for filing their nomination, and would give their entire time to campaigning in favour of other Congress candidates to ensure the party’s win in the majority of the segments.
Somanna belongs to the Lingayat community which has a large presence in Varuna, while Ashoka is seen as BJP’s prominent Vokkaliga face, the community to which Shivakumar also belongs to.
Somanna will also contest from Chamarajanagar, and Ashoka from Padmanabhanagar segment (which he currently represents).
Recalling that he had campaigned for Siddaramaiah during the Chamundeshwari bypolls when they were in the same party, and had worked with him as cabinet colleagues, Somanna said the Varuna constituency was not new to him. “I will do my job.”
Commenting on him being fielded against Shivakumar, Ashoka said, as a “loyal soldier of the party” he would abide by the diktat of his “commanders” Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
“I have been given the task of contesting from Kanakapura, I was not aware of it, nor have I asked for it. But as a disciplined soldier of the party, I will abide by the decision. I will play my role in ensuring that the party’s strategy to win this election is successful,” he said.
Noting that political stalwarts like Indira Gandhi and Deve Gowda among others too had lost elections, he said, “People of Kanakapura want development, and I’m confident that they will bless me to bring in a ‘double-engine government’ under Modi’s leadership…. The party has given me strength and I will fight.”
Regarding his contest against Siddaramaiah, Somanna said the party had given him the responsibility with a lot of trust, and he would try his best to fulfil expectations.
“I had earlier become MLA in Govindarajanagar in a span of 25-30 days. I will try to repeat the same in Varuna this time with the blessings of the people there,” he said.
Somanna had earlier said he would not contest against Siddaramaiah.
In Kolar, the second seat from where Siddaramaiah is planning to contest, BJP has fielded Varthur Prakash, who has won twice from the segment as an independent.
Commenting on Ashoka contesting against him from Kanakapura, Shivakumar said, politics was a game of chess, and both Congress and BJP were playing the game.
Asked whether Congress in a retaliatory move would field a strong candidate against Ashoka in Padmanabhanagar, the other segment from where he is contesting, the KPCC chief said, “V Raghunatha Naidu is our candidate there… There is also pressure to field D K Suresh (Bengaluru Rural MP) from there, but we have announced Naidu’s name. We will discuss.”
Former Minister C P Yogeshwar from BJP would once again cross swords with Janata Dal (Secular) leader and former Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy in Channapatna.
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