Keeping political power within the family is quite common in Karnataka. The past elections witnessed key leaders passing on their constituencies to second, third generation family members (sons and daughters), spouses, or field candidates based on lost political legacies of a particular family.
While South Karnataka, which went to polls on April 18, witnessed Janata Dal (Secular) party leader HD Deve Gowda contest along with his two grandsons, North Karnataka, which goes to polls on April 23, sees an even more fierce battle on dynastic lines. Seven candidates in six of the 14 constituencies that go to polls have family members who either are or were in politics.
It is not just the Gowda clan that leads the family politics. BJP’s state chief BS Yeddyurappa fielded his son BY Raghavendra in Shimoga constituency. Raghavendra contests against JD(S) party’s Madhu Bangarappa, who is the son of former chief minister S Bangarappa.
It is ironic that the BJP, which campaigned hard in South Karnataka to vote out Gowda’s family for promoting family politics, went silent when its own party members, hailing from political families, were favoured to contest polls.
Similarly, in Davangere, BJP’s candidate GM Siddeshwara is the son of late MP G Mallikarjunappa. The Congress party fielded three candidates whose kith and kin are into politics. Opposition leader in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, who contests from Gulbarga, has his son Priyank Kharge as a sitting member of state legislative assembly. Kharge looks for third straight victory from Gulbarga against rebel Congress candidate Umesh Jhadav of BJP.
So is the Bagalkot candidate Veena Kashappanavar who’s the wife of former minister Vijayananda Kashappanavar. And Eshwar Khandre is one of the sons of former minister Bhimanna Khandre. Again Sunita Chavan, wife of Devanand Chavan, JD(S) MLA from Nagathan constituency, is the party candidate from Vijayapura.
The situation is no different when compared to previous Assembly elections where Congress’ M Krishnappa, CK Jaffer Sharief, Shamanur Shivashankarappa, Mahantesh Koujalagi, Jarkhiholi brothers, and BJP’s R Ashok fielded their kith and kin.
Chief Minister Kumaraswamy defended the family politics saying it was at the will of people they contested, and the BJP was no better. “Yeddyurappa, too, is guilty of dynasty politics. Two or three more of his family members may join politics in future. When such is the precedent, then why blame the Deve Gowda family alone?” he told a media house in Bengaluru.
He went to take examples from others states like the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in Tamil Nadu, Rashtriya Janata Dal in Bihar, Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh, and Nationalist Congress Party in Maharashtra, among others.
According to an IndiaSpend report, the BJP had a similar number of dynasts as the Congress among its elected members over the past two decades.
Psephologist Sandeep Shastry said that given the political tide, while it becomes easier for the candidates to build a network in the initial years in politics, one’s performance will take precedence over the family legacy over the years. “I wouldn’t say it (fielding candidates from the same family) is restricted to one specific region or one specific party. It exists almost everywhere and it will only be a kick-starter. It will not be a key factor to winning.”