For apolitical reasons, Bangalore South is the cynosure, as the Congress has fielded technocrat Nandan Nilekani, the country’s uber rich with personal wealth of whopping Rs.7,710 crore, to log out BJP’s five-time winner N.H. Ananth Kumar, who is sweating it out to retain the seat.
What makes the contest in this tech hub keenly watched is its voters’ profile, as half of them are young, smart, upwardly mobile and aspiring to be global in vision and local in execution.
Not to be over-shadowed is the adjacent Bangalore Central seat, where the ruling party has pitted young Congress leader Rizwan Arshad against financial wizard and former Infosys director V. Balakrishnan of the Aam Admi Party (AAP), outgoing BJP lawmaker P.C. Mohan and danseuse Nandini Alva of Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S).
As Arshad, like Nilekani, is the pick of Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, the ruling party’s state unit is pulling out all stops to wrest the seat from the BJP and help the scion in becoming the country’s next prime minister.
The neighbouring Chikkaballapur seat is also in limelight, as controversial union Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister M. Veerappa Moily of the Congress is seeking another term from the backward district, about 70 km from Bangalore.
Though Moily’s name was cleared by the party’s high command belatedly, anti-incumbency, failure to fulfill promises and aggressive campaign by rival parties made the going tough for the former chief minister, dubbed outsider, as he hails from Dakshina Kannada district in the coastal area.
AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal and BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi held road shows and public rallies in the constituency against Moily.
Former chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy of JD-S is also in the fray against Moily though he is a lawmaker from the Ramanagara assembly segment in the adjacent Bangalore Rural parliamentary constituency.
Another fierce battle is being waged at Shimoga,
about 300 km from Bangalore, where former BJP chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa is fighting against odds in place of his younger son and outgoing lawmaker B.Y. Raghavendra.
Unfazed by the corruption charges hurled at him by rival parties, including the AAP, Yeddyaurappa, who was lured back into the BJP, is betting on Modi frenzy and his contribution to the development of home district during his three-year tenure (2008-2011) as BJP’s first chief minister in southern India.
The entry of Geetha, wife of Kannada cine star Shivrajkumar and daughter of former chief minister S. Bangarappa, as a JD-S candidate has tied down Yeddyurappa to the constituency for aggressive campaigning, as the Congress and AAP have launched a blitzkrieg against the tainted leader for his alleged involvement in the multi-million mining scam in the state.
Similarly, in the rich mining town of Bellary in the state’s northern region, former BJP minister B.R. Sriramulu is contesting in place of his sister and outgoing member J.Shanta from the reserved tribal (ST) constituency against Congress nominee and former Odisha high court chief justice N.Y. Hanumanthappa.
Shanta was the lone woman winner from the state in the 2009 general elections, defeating Hanumanthappa, her old uncle.
Other star contestants and key constituencies are Railway Minister Mallikarjun Kharge of Congress seeking a second term from the Gulbarga reserved (SC) constituency, former chief minister N. Dharam Singh of the Congress from Bidar in the northern region for a second term and former BJP’s lone woman cabinet minister Shobha Karandlaje from Udupi-Chikmagalur against outgoing Congress lawmaker Jayaprakash Hegde.
For the first time, six former chief ministers, with two each from the Congress, BJP and JD-S are in the fray across the state.
Former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda of JD-S from Hassan, about 180 km from Bangalore, and former BJP chief minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda from Bangalore North are the other two former chief ministers in fray.
Deve Gowda was the Janata Dal-United chief minister from December 1994 to May 1996 and Sadananda Gowda was BJP’s second chief minister from August 2011 to September 2012 after Yeddyurappa resigned.