Karnataka is voting in two phases this election. The southern half of the state – 14 seats out of 28 – voted on Thursday. The remaining 14 seats will vote next Tuesday. The north of the state is not considered a region where the Janata Dal Secular is very strong. The party, running a coalition government in Karnataka with the Congress, has a base in southern Karnataka, in the belt where the dominant caste are the Vokkaligas, to which Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy belongs. But the Chief Minister says that its support in the northern region will be valuable to help the coalition candidates fight the BJP there.
“Actually even in the northern part of Karnataka, Bidar, we are growing. Even in (the Congress’s Mallikarjun) Kharge’s constituency in the assembly elections we have scored more than 1,15,000. Even in Raichur we have two MLAs, Bidar we have one MLA, Bijapur we have two MLAs. In several constituencies we have lost by 2,000-3,000 votes. We are strong in some segment that is going to help the Congress even the Bijapur seat that they have allotted to us that we are fighting very seriously,” Mr Kumaraswamy told NDTV.
One of the seats going to the polls next Tuesday is Shivamogga, which will witness a battle between sons of two former chief ministers. BY Raghavendra, the son of former chief minister and state BJP chief BS Yeddyurappa, is contesting against Madhu Bangarappa of the JDS, who is the son of the late S Bangarappa. This was the same contest as last year’s by-election – made necessary after BS Yeddyurappa quit as a parliamentarian to join the state assembly. Mr Raghavendra won that round.
Mr Kumaraswamy says the seat will go to his party. “This time we are going to win that seat comfortably, last time in by-elections we had some mistakes – that mistake we have now recognised, that mistake it is not going to be repeated. I think we are going to get that seat, whatever mistake we had done in the previous by- elections by starting out all those things we are working very hard. I think this time even Shivamogga seats we are going to get it.”
The chief minister says that the appeal of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has diminished since the last general elections. He said, “Compared to 2014, Modi’s influence this time has reduced. Whatever foreign affairs achievements… Now nobody is believing his statements, whatever promises, according to me. It is not easy for Modi factor to get more seats in Karnataka.”
Mr Kumaraswamy has often spoken about the stress of running a coalition government. “There always will naturally be some differences when you form the government with coalition parties. Even some single party governments also face several issues. Several examples I can quote, they have faced a lot of problems. Same thing is in coalition government but the issues are not so bad for me to run the government,” he told NDTV.
And if one wonders how a chief minister balances his responsibilities while campaigning, Mr Kumaraswamy has the answer.
“Officers are taking my responsibility in this period actually. I am very lucky to have good officers, including my Chief Secretary even our principal secretary. Several officers they have taken personal interest they are doing their job regarding our citizen issues. I am concentrating on the elections,” he said.
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