The BJP is making a break from its usual election model for Karnataka, giving recognition to a different polity and manner of voting. Sources indicated that the departure from norm — currently at play in the Hindi heartland and in Gujarat — is expected to work in the southern state, where the party is hoping for a second consecutive term. Assembly elections are due in the state in May.
Sources said the party will field most of its existing MLAs, in view of the fact that most leaders have their own vote bank and support groups, no matter to which party they belong to.
Elsewhere, the BJP has always sheared down its existing MLAs, leading with new faces and later, a new team of ministers to avoid any anti-incumbency. Accordingly, there have been demands that the same model be followed in Karnataka. Relatives of MLAs also should not be given tickets, many leaders have demanded.
But the party’s think tank has pointed out that the political situation in Karnataka is different from that of Gujarat. There are more than 120 seats where leaders win elections with their personal influence. In case they are denied tickets, they will have no scruples about changing parties, sources said.
At the most six or seven MLAs can be dropped in the 224-member house, Mr Yeddiyurappa has said. Some are close to 75 years in age and a few are not keeping well. They may be denied tickets. but will have their say in the candidate selection.
The BJP’s Gujarat election formula had some serious after-effects also. After dropping 42 sitting MLAs in Gujarat and 11 and Himachal Pradesh ahead of the recent assembly polls, the party faced revolt in both states.
There are also elaborate plans to deal with MLAs who cross over from other parties ahead of elections, especially from the Congress and HD Kumaraswamy’s Janata Dal Secular. Anyone crossing over will be fielded from their current seats, sources said.
The BJP is banking on Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well as the personal hold of its state leaders in their respective constituencies to return to power. The key strategist will still be former Chief Minister BS Yeddiyurappa, who has promised to work hard to ensure that PM Modi stays in the post after the 2024 elections.
Mr Yeddiyurappa is not contesting the election this time and will work behind the screens. His younger son BY Vijayendra may contest from his seat Shikaripura. The BJP has been unwilling to give Mr Vijayendra ticket or party post so far to ward off allegations of dynastic politics.
PM Modi, who has visited Karnataka six times so far this year, is expected to visit the state twice this month. He is expected to address a big rally in Davangere on March 25, concluding the four Vijay Sankalp Rallies. Before that, there may be a state tour over government programmes on March 19 or 21.
Home Minister Amit Shah will be in Karnataka on March 23-24. BJP President JP Nadda will also visit the state, sources said.