Deputy Chief Minister K.S. Eshwarappa had to face the ire of the Election Commission over his “communal” remarks at a Brahmin convention. This is, however, not the only trouble he is facing on his home turf.
Mr. Eshwarappa, a four-time Bharatiya Janata Party MLA who won the 2008 Assembly election from Shimoga by a margin of 32,419 votes, is facing stiff opposition from the Congress and Karnataka Janata Paksha this time.
Mr. Eshwarappa, as if in a desperate bid to consolidate Hindu votes in his favour, has been raising controversial issues during campaigning like the anti-cattle slaughter Bill initiated by the BJP government and making inflammatory statements against the Muslim community.
The reason behind this desperation seems to be the poor performance of the BJP in Shimoga city in the urban local body elections, attributed to the exit of the former Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa from the BJP.
The party, which came to power in Shimoga City Municipal Council in 2007 with 19 seats, got just eight this time. Congress won in 12 wards, KJP in seven, and JD (S) five.
Just after the declaration of Assembly polls, with the objective to revitalise the BJP, Mr. Eshwarappa initiated another round of “Operation Lotus” in Shimoga constituency. A large number of functionaries of Congress, Janata Dal (Secular) and KJP were inducted into BJP.
After BJP government came to power in the State, a slew of infrastructure upgrading works like construction of airport and widening of roads were initiated in Shimoga city.
There is now competition between Mr. Yeddyurappa and Mr. Eshwarappa to claim credit of these.
Mr. Yeddyurappa is playing the betrayal card also. The Congress is expecting benefit from the duel between them.
The BJP has a strong support base among the Brahmin and Lingayat communities here. Mr. Eshwarappa is also leaving no stone unturned to garner the support of the other backward classes.
Eyeing the Brahmin votes, the Congress has fielded two-time councillor K.B. Prasanna Kumar who belongs to that community. KJP candidate Rudre Gowda is a Lingayat. The Janata Dal (Secular) candidate M. Srikanth is hoping to attract young voters.
The minority community votes will also play a decisive role, which the Congress might get a major share of. Even the KJP and JD (S) are also engaged in intense campaigning in the localities dominated by the minority community.