With Assembly elections round the corner, the BJP is focused on the Old Mysuru region, where significant electoral gains are seen to be crucial for the party to come back to power in Karnataka on its own.
For decades, the BJP has struggled to spread its wings in the Vokkaliga community-dominated Old Mysuru region, with the well entrenched JD(S) and Congress holding sway. The region comprises Ramanagara, Mandya, Mysuru, Chamarajanagar, Kodagu, Kolar, Tumakuru and Hassan districts.
JD(S) leader and former Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy and President of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) D K Shivakumar belong to this community.
Among the 58 Assembly seats in these districts, JD(S) represents 24, Congress 18 and BJP 15. BJP also has the backing of expelled BSP MLA N Mahesh, who represents Kollegal in Chamarajanagar district. In the Vokkaliga heartland of Mandya district, the JD(S) has six out of seven MLAs, three of four MLAs in Ramanagara and six of the seven seats in Hassan. The JD(S) has four out of 11 seats in Mysuru, whereas the Congress has four and BJP three in this district.
The regional party also has three seats in Tumakuru but the party is wary about the Gubbi MLA S R Srinivas who allegedly voted in favour of the BJP candidate during the Rajya Sabha elections in June last year.
The BJP top brass has acknowledged that improving the electoral tally in this region is key to regaining power on its own steam. The party came to power in Karnataka four times and every time it emerged as the single largest party but fell short of the majority mark.
Twice, the party had to allegedly resort to ‘Operation Lotus’ to woo disgruntled opposition members and form a majority government. The BJP, however, put up an impressive show in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, winning 25 of the 28 seats. Shivakumar’s brother D K Suresh won from Bengaluru Rural Lok Sabha constituency and JD(S) supremo and former prime minister H D Deve Gowda’s grandson Prajwal Revanna emerged victorious in Hassan.
To BJP’s comfort, the party backed independent candidate Sumalatha Ambareesh won from Mandya constituency, which had always been a JD(S) citadel. The actor-turned-politician Sumalatha who defeated Deve Gowda’s grandson and former Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy’s son Nikhil Kumaraswamy in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, extended her ‘full support’ to the BJP on March 11, a day ahead of Prime Minister’s visit to Mandya to launch a slew of projects including the most ambitious one – Bengaluru-Mysuru Expressway. The inauguration could have been done either in Mysuru or Bengaluru, but the Prime Minister opted for Mandya.
”The voters of Mandya hardly get carried away by emotional issues,” a political analyst said. The JD(S) suffered a blow when the KR Pet MLA K C Narayana Gowda ditched the party during the ”Operation Lotus” in 2019 and was among the MLAs who resigned from the Assembly, joined the BJP and successfully contested the by-election on a BJP ticket and became a minister. With this, the BJP got its first legislator from the JD(S) citadel, Mandya.