The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will field Tejaswini Ananth Kumar in Bangalore South Lok Sabha constituency to fill the void created by her late husband and former Union minister HN Ananth Kumar who died on November 12, 2018, while still in office.
Meanwhile, both the Congress and Janatal Dal Secular (JDS) are scrambling to find a candidate to pit against Tejaswini. Kumar held the seat for six times in a row since 1996 general elections. He secured anywhere between 48% and 55% vote share in the last five elections.
Besides the Prime Minister Narendra Modi factor, the party is riding on the development work done by Kumar and is hoping former chief minister SM Krishna, the long-time congressman who joined the BJP in 2017, to campaign for Tejaswini.
The state BJP spokesperson Prakash Shesharaghavachar and two others MLAs from Bangalore South confirmed her candidature. Legislators, corporators and local workers have all endorsed her considering the active role she’s played during Ananth Kumar’s campaigning days.
“Tejaswini has been active in politics throughout his (Ananth Kumar’s) career and has been credited with a lot of development works. This apart, the government’s action against terror (in Pulwama case) will benefit the party,” said V Somanna, BJP MLA of Govindraj Nagar.
At present, the Bangalore South Constituency comprises of eight legislative assembly segments of which the BJP holds five and the remaining three are with Congress.
Tejaswini is not new to politics. She is part of Adamya Chetana, a non-government organisation that focuses on social development—food, education, healthcare and environment in the state. The mid-day meal programme of the NGO reaches 2 lakh children across various schools Karnataka. After her husband’s death, Tejaswini has been politically active and has been meeting students and elderly groups quite often.
In the last week of February, she even attended PM Modi’s Mann Ki Baat programme organised at the BJP party office in Malleshwaram, which put an end to the speculation that she may not enter politics.
Tejaswini could not be reached for comments.
Problems aplenty for Congress
JDS spokesperson confirmed that the party will not field the lead candidate in Bangalore South. Its coalition partner Congress will do. For Congress, which fielded different candidates against Ananth Kumar every election, it’s not an easy battle.
It tried to convince Sumalatha, wife of late actor-turned-politician Ambareesh to contest from Bangalore south. However, she was not willing to content any place other than Mandya.
The party is in a fix now.
Rumours were abound that Congress was now in talks with MLA and former Home Minister Ramalinga Reddy to contest from Bangalore South. However, sources said, the party was also worried that making a sitting MLA quit and contest the Lok Sabha seat will weaken its tally in the state assembly and threaten the coalition government.
“While Ramalinga Reddy might not be to ready to quit, the party is exploring options to field a candidate from late Dhanraj Parasmal Sharma’s family,” said a Congress insider who did not wish to be quoted.
Sharma was the owner of Sharma Transport that runs buses across South India. Sharma had contested against Ananth Kumar in 1998 and lost the election with a margin of 1.8 lakh votes. After his death in 2001, his son Suresh Sharma, who was a secretary of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee and a close aide of senior Congress leader DK Shivakumar, took over the reins. Suresh passed away in 2016, and his brother Sunil Kumar Sharma is now in charge of the business.
Both Sunil and DK Shivakumar were named in a complaint by the Income Tax Department which accused them of transporting unaccounted cash regularly through ‘hawala’ channels.
Harish Ramaswamy, a political analyst and professor of political science at Karnataka University noted that Tejaswini being novice to politics might not deter the voters.
“BJP is in a formidable position after the Pulwama attack. The youth votes and the Brahmin votes in Bangalore South will move towards BJP, and the party might talk of the unfinished agenda of Ananth Kumar that could work in favour of the party, Ramaswamy added.