Karnataka Assembly polls: What’s delaying the BJP’s candidates’ list

Sources say the party is yet to finalise the names as the central leadership is not happy with the list of candidates pitched by the state leadership and has asked for a fresh one

Chief Minister Basavraj Bommai with senior BJP leader Yediyurappa | File photo: PTI

The BJP’s inordinate delay in releasing its final ticket list for the Karnataka Assembly polls has heightened the suspense around its candidate selection, raising questions if the party’s postponement of the list’s announcement for the fifth time is a strategy or a reflection of its weakness.

Sources say the party is yet to finalise the names as the central leadership is not happy with the list of candidates pitched by the state leadership and has asked for a fresh one. The fact that the party has to introduce new faces, while ensuring that sitting MLAs are not riled up, has also delayed the announcement.

Also read: Karnataka polls | BJP’s first list of 170-180 candidates by Wednesday: Bommai

Marathon meetings yield no results

Chief Minister Basavraj Bommai and former chief minister BS Yediyurappa have clarified that they have no confirmation on the candidates list’s release yet.

While the Opposition Congress has already released two lists of candidates, the BJP, which has more than 118 MLAs in the Karnataka Assembly, has been dragging its feet even though only two days are left for the filing of nomination papers (scheduled for April 13).

Senior state leaders have been camping in Delhi for the past three days. While the BJP’s Central Election Committee has been holding marathon meetings with central leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP national president JP Nadda, sources say, no consensus has been arrived on the names.

The meetings are taking place at the residences of Shah, Nadda and BJP’s election officer Dharmendra Pradhan

Sources say the 22-member high-level committee comprising top leaders like Bommai, Yediyurappa, and state BJP president Nalin Kumar Kateel have shortlisted two to three names for each of the 124 constituencies, but are finding it difficult to zero onto one final name.

Nadda is scheduled to chair another meeting on Tuesday (April 11).

Yeddyurappa had earlier said that a first list of 170-180 candidates for the 224-member assembly will be released by Monday evening.

Leadership wants fresh survey  

Incidentally, the BJP has been the only party which began its election preparation much earlier than others. Then, what is keeping it from announcing its candidates? Many say the delay is a strategy by the BJP.

“No matter who the candidate is, there must be a strong organisation at the grassroots level to win. So there is no need to announce the name of the candidate right now because whoever is the candidate, he will win. Also, is it because it is convenient to make some changes if the other parties declared their candidates,” an MLA said.

Also read: Modi, other BJP election panel members meet to finalise Karnataka poll candidates

Sources say, the central leadership of the BJP is not satisfied with the names provided by Bommai, Yediyurappa and Kateel and has called for a survey to narrow down on the ‘right’ candidates considering the list of names provided by booth-level Page Pramukhs. It is said that the central leadership already has a list of names, collected from various surveys done at its level, as it is not convinced with the list prepared by the state leaders.

Chief Minister Bommai has also been asked to get a survey done by three different organisations. It is said the tickets will be finalised based on the survey. The opinions of grassroots workers will be taken into account for the same.

Hiccups on the way

Reasons like fear of rebellion, cold war within the party and demand by veteran leaders to give tickets to their family members have also delayed the announcement.

Sources say, the party fears that it may lose the strong leaders who may rebel if not given tickets. The cold war between old-timers and newly-inducted BJP members on the issue of ticket distribution has also delayed the announcement.

Also, the demand by leaders like V Somanna, and KS Eshwarappa to give tickets to their children if Yediyurappa’s son BY Vijayendra is given one, has left the party, which is not a strong advocate of dynasty politics, in a quandary.

With the BJP mulling to give tickets to new faces at least in 40 constituencies, it is said to be delaying the announcement of its candidates as the ticket distribution process for all the constituencies is likely to drag on till April 20, which is the last day for candidates to submit their nomination papers. A senior leader said that almost all sitting MLAs are likely to get tickets except for a few seats where they are facing stiff competition from party rival.

A leader, recognised with the anti-Yediyurappa camp dismissed claims of a strategy behind the delay and said the party leadership is unable to find candidates for more than 100 constituencies, and thus the dilemma. Also, the leaders like Yediyurappa, Bommai, Kateel, and BL Santosh have their list of candidates, which has made the leadership face difficulty in clearing the list, he said.

Backup in every constituency

In line with the directive of the central leadership, at least two names have been recommended for constituencies where the state BJP unit has its MLAs. The reason behind suggesting two names in party-held parts is that any sitting MLA is likely to face a high level of anti-incumbency. If there is a chance to change them, they are more likely to rebel. Thus, the party does not want to lose the strongmen and the votes with them. It is learnt that the party is ready to convince the ticket aspirants if they are disappointed.

BJP sources said that if the sitting MLA chooses to switch constituencies, the party should have an alternative name available to pick a candidate at the last moment – thus the two names.

Also read: BJP facing pressure and a potential revolt in Karnataka

The party is also likely to take some time to select candidates who have announced their retirement. A large number of new aspirants are waiting for tickets from several constituencies. Hence, the announcement of candidates was delayed, sources said.

BJP Yuva Morcha national president and Lok Sabha MP Tejaswi Surya told the media that the release of the party’s list of candidates has been delayed as the BJP is following internal democracy. He said that the party has collected the views of the workers and leaders of the respective constituencies to select the candidates for the assembly elections.

KPCC chief DK Shivakumar said that there is a lot of confusion in the BJP and they are unable to finalize the candidates. “BJP leaders are thinking that some rebels may move out of the party and they are waiting till the last minute for not allowing them to leave the party.”