Bengaluru: With the Congress releasing the names of candidates to contest 218 of the total 224 seats in the Karnataka Assembly, battlelines between the Congress and BJP have been drawn for the ensuing 12 May election. The saffron party will announce its second list on Monday. The other major player in Karnataka, the JD(S), is expected to release its second list on Tuesday after the party command in Bengaluru decides on key constituencies that might take them to the magical figure of 45 seats in the final run-up to the 15 May results.
The Congress list, released late on Sunday evening, left out six constituencies " Shantinagar, Nagthan, Melkote, Kittur, Raichur and Sindgi. Shantinagar is represented by party's long-term MLA NA Haris. Haris had recently been in trouble over his son Mohammad Nalapad assaulting the son of a local businessman at Bengaluru restaurant.
In Melkote, the Congress is likely not to field a candidate and support Darshan Puttanaiah, son of the late MLA and farmer leader Puttanaiah, who is contesting as a Swaraj India candidate. Rumours that Chief Minister Siddaramaiah would be contesting from two constituencies like his JD(S) counterpart HD Kumaraswamy, have been laid to rest. Siddaramaiah will contest from only one seat " Chamundeshwari in Mysore.
As many as 12 sitting MLAs did not get tickets. These include R Ramakrishna (Gulbarga Rural), Manohar Tahasildar (Hangal), BB Chimmankatti (Badami), Makbul S Baghwan (Vijayapura City), BN Shivannavar (Byadgi), NY Gopalakrishna (Ballari), HP Rajesh (Jagalur), GH Srinivas (Tarikere), K Shadakshari (Tiptur), S Jayanna (Kollegal), BM Nagaraj (Siraguppa) and Shivamurthy Naik (Mayakonda). While the BJP list has only three women among the first 72 candidates announced, the Congress list features 15 women among 218 candidates announced. The list includes former Bengaluru Mayor G Padmavati, KPCC women's wing president Laxmi Hebbalkar, women and child welfare minister Umashree and Sharada Mohan Shetty among others.
Congress has also tried to keep a check on dynasty tickets, denying the T Narasipur seat to Sunil Bose, son of PWD minister HC Mahadevappa, who currently represents the constituency in Mysuru region. While Mahadevappa, who shares a strong bond with Siddaramaiah, wanted to move to C V Raman Nagar constituency in Bengaluru to facilitate his son's candidature from T Narasipur, the party command seems to have ignored his interest, fielding him again from T Narasipur to defend the constituency. Bengaluru mayor Samapath Raj got the CV Raman Nagar ticket.
Sunil Bose, however, had bleak chances of landing a ticket having been named as second accused in an illegal sand mining case and his involvement in a controversy over trying to influence a bureaucrat using his father's credentials. Another factor that may have gone against him is the fact that his father, Mahadevappa, wanted the Karkala Assembly seat in Udupi to go to Uday Kumar Shetty, which irked former chief minister M Veerappa Moily as he wanted the seat for his son Harsha Moily.
There had been a cold war of sorts going on between Moily and Shetty (a strong contender in Karkala), who had been trying to malign reputation of Moily's son. But, the Congress leadership put all disputes to rest by fielding backward community leader and old warhorse Gopal Bhandary to face Sunil Kumar of BJP in Karkala. This tussle seems to have hurt two senior Congress leaders who wanted to field their sons. Just as Bose, Harsha Moily hasn't appeared in list of 218 candidates announced so far.
Congress has tried to play it safe on the coast " Dakshina Kannada, Udupi and Uttara Kannada " by fielding existing candidates who led the party to victory in 2013. Kolar MP KH Muniyappa had the last laugh with his daughter Roopa Shashidhar getting a ticket from Kolar Gold Fields (KGF) and Syed Zameer Pasha, a former IAS officer for whom Muniyappa was rooting, getting a ticket from Kolar constituency.
Home Minister Ramalinga Reddy succeeded in getting ticket for his daughter Soumya to contest from Jayanagar which is represented BJP MLA Vijayakumar. Minister for Planning, Programme Monitoring and Statistics Separtment MR Seetharam got a ticket from Malleswaram. He was elected to the same seat in 1999 and 2004. In 2012, he was nominated to the Legislative Council. He is set to fight Dr CN Ashwath Narayan, a two-time MLA from BJP. Seetharam was defeated by Ashwath Narayan in 2008 by a margin of 8,183 votes. Malleshwaram being a stronghold of upper caste Hindus, it might turn out to be an uphill task for Seetharam.
The other interesting seat is Pulakeshinagar, which is represented by Akhanda Srinivasa Murthy, who recently quit JD(S) to move to Congress. Murthy succeeded in wresting the Congress ticket from KPCC president Dr G Parameshwar " who was interested in Pulakeshinagar " with the help of another JD(S) rebel Zameer Ahmed who lobbied with the chief minister. Former Bengaluru mayor G Padmavati will contest from Rajajinagar represented by BJP MLA S Suresh Kumar, a two-time MLA from BJP. He had defeated G Padmavati by a margin of 14,660 votes in 2008 and R Manjula Naidu by a margin of 14,809 votes in 2013.
Another JD(S) rebel who moved to the Congress, Zameer Ahmed Khan, has been given a chance to prove his mettle after he challenged his estranged friend Kumaraswamy and JD(S) supremo HD Deve Gowda, and shocked civil society by saying he would prefer to decapitate himself than lose the Chamarajpet seat. Khan's exit from the JD(S) may shift the balance in the Congress' favour as he has a roving command over Ramanagar, Maddur, Mandya and Chamarajanagar.
Siddaramaiah, however, did not succeed in getting tickets for people in his inner circle, whom he wanted to field from the seats belonging to the Kuruba community. In Byadagi, sitting MLA Basavaraj Shivannavar, who is a loyal follower of the chief minister and belongs to Halumata community, did not get a ticket. Former MLAs KN Gaddi and BB Chimmanakatti also missed the bus. They were expecting tickets from Navalagund in Dharwad and Badami in Bagalkot district, respectively. These choices may impact the Kuruba community in North Karnataka.
In Mandya, another Vokkaliga stronghold, the Congress has resorted to play safe by fielding Ambareesh from Mandya and Madhu Madey Gowda from Maddur constituency. However, keeping its options open in Melkote constituency has surprised Congress leaders in Mandya.
M Raghuram, Y Maheshwar Reddy, Basavaraj Marlihalli, Ranganath Krishnaswamy and Ranjini S have contributed to this article. All are members of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters.