While the first list of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), with a majority of seats, is out, the delay in finalising it was caused over a difference of opinion between B S Yediyurappa (BSY), a parliamentary board member and former Chief Minister, and another senior leader from the state, as well as a demand for tickets for all turncoat MLAs.
The dates to announce the list of the BJP candidates was moved ahead at least thrice in the past week, before Karnataka Chief Minister BS Bommai said on Tuesday evening that the lists had been finalised in two batches.
The BJP high command, sources say, was faced with the tough challenge of selecting the ‘right’ candidate for over 75 seats in Karnataka as a major difference of opinion cropped up on the choice of names given by BSY and another senior leader, along with heated exchanges.
A leader privy to the candidate list meetings told News18 that Yediyurappa even had a heated argument over the choice of candidates and to the surprise of the BJP high command, he did not see eye-to-eye on the names for over 110 of the total 224 seats in Karnataka.
It is also learnt that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, and BJP National President JP Nadda had four sets of lists two from the BJP’s Central office team, one from Yediyurappa, and the other from the senior leader. While three of the four lists matched in most seats, one had a lot of surprises.
“Even after several hours of deliberations, there was no consensus on 75 crucial seats,” said the leader on condition of anonymity.
Sources say the list drawn out by Yediyurappa was quite close to the one that Shah’s team had charted out based on ground reports and analysis from ground zero over the past three months.
A miffed Yediyurappa returned to Bengaluru from Delhi after what was seen as a move to display his unhappiness over the indecisiveness over his choice of candidates. It is said that Yediyurappa made strong recommendations for 35 seats, for which he gave the central leadership a personal guarantee of winning. As the discussions went into the late hours of Sunday, with no conclusion in sight, Yediyurappa left Delhi.
Senior BJP leaders, including Bommai, however, dismissed rumours of Yediyurappa being angry and said the leader had to return due to personal commitments.
It is also learnt that the BJP’s top leadership was keen on giving BSY’s younger son and state BJP vice-president BY Vijayendra the Varuna seat. It is the seat that the leader of the Opposition and senior Congress leader Siddaramaiah will contest from. The BJP wanted Vijayendra to fight against the former Congress chief minister and defeat him.
“The BJP seniors felt that if Vijayendra defeats Siddaramaiah, he will not only be a giant slayer, his prospects when the party comes to power will be more rewarding,” said another senior state BJP leader, on condition of anonymity.
But insiders in the Yediyurappa camp told News18 that neither BSY nor Vijayendra were comfortable with the idea of contesting from Varuna. BSY has been looking to field Vijayendra from the family pocketborough of Shikaripura, the assembly seat the senior BJP leader contested from seven times.
“If Vijayendra loses Varuna, his political career will end even before it starts. With Yediyurappa retiring from active politics, Vijayendra is determined to take forward the BSY mantle and fight from their home turf Shikaripura,” the BJP leader said.
The move by BSY to ensure his son’s win is also to ensure that the leader’s family continues to have a firm grip on the affairs of the state unit, even though BSY has announced his retirement from active politics earlier this year.
Another hurdle the BJP faced was the demands made by turncoat MLAs led by former minister and Gokak MLA Ramesh Jarkiholi. The MLA played a crucial role in bringing onboard 17 MLAs from the Congress and JDS to the BJP, which led to the collapse of the Congress and JDS coalition and the BJP coming to power in 2019.
Jarkiholi had demanded 17 tickets for all his supporters, and party insiders said that the BJP central leadership approved only four from his list. This caused a further strain between the newbie BJP MLAs and the party’s top leadership. The possibility of a few MLAs going back to the Congress and JDS cannot be ruled out, warn state BJP leaders. Many turncoat MLAs are strong leaders who have been re-elected multiple times, making it a tough call.
“There is no inordinate delay,” clarified BJP MP Prahar Joshi, who also stated that the party usually announces its candidates a few days before the date of filing nominations, which is April 20. It is learnt that the party was extremely cautious to ensure there is no more rebellion among disgruntled candidates, while keeping a close watch on the list of their rivals — JDS and Congress.
“Every MLA’s work in their constituency was graded and the central leaders closely compared notes on winnability. It is a crucial election as the BJP is seeking to come back to power for the second time, which, if it happens, will make history,” said a BJP functionary from Karnataka.
Meanwhile, the opposition has come out with at least two lists. The Congress has announced two lists naming candidates for 166 assembly seats, and the JDS has announced one list with 93 names. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which is also contesting all 224 assembly seats, has released its third list of 28 candidates, covering a total of 168 of the 224 constituencies.
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