With reports suggesting that BJP strongman BS Yeddyurappa may switch his political battleground to North Karnataka for the upcoming Assembly elections, political calculations are being drawn up over the BJP's prospects. BJP's CM face, Yeddyurappa has been asked by the party high command to contest from North Karnataka to consolidate the Lingayat votes that is now split with a demand for a separate religion tag to it. Besides, this would see Yeddyurappa sacrificing his bastion - Shikaripur in Shivamogga district - for his son, BY Raghavendra.
While the movie is being hailed as a strategic move to woo the Lingayat votes in the North Karnataka, this could prove quite a gamble for the party that has vowed to come back to power in the state.
This could be a calculated move, for Yeddyurappa is considered the prominent leader in the Lingayat community, who enjoys support from all the mutts and community leaders. To counter the Congress' strategy to divide the Lingayat votes by raising the issue of separate religion tag to Lingayats, the BJP feels, by fielding Yeddyurappa, it stands a chance to gain. For, the majority of the community is spread over North Karnataka and the community has been supporting BJP in both Assembly and general elections.
Besides, sacrificing his bastion, Shikaripur, to his son Raghavendra would be a win-win situation for the BJP. Yeddyurappa has been winning from the constituency for six times from 1983 to 2008. Except for his loss (only once) against former chief minister S Bangarappa in 1999, Yeddyurappa has maintained his victory run. Since he enjoys an unstinted support, it would help his son to claim the constituency, helping the party.
Also, the political experts feel, this may put an end to the rift between Yeddyurappa and KS Eshwarappa, who is also a prominent leader from Shivamogga. Yeddyurappa is reportedly eyeing Vijayapura or Bagalkot districts for his next political battle ground. However, the party is yet to confirm it. Yeddyurappa is currently the member of Parliament from Shivamogga.
But on the flip side, this may prove risky for the party. For, Yeddyurappa who had earlier supported the separate religion status to Lingayats now did a U-turn after Chief Minister Siddaramaiah promised to take the demand to the Centre. Now, that Yeddyurappa has done an about turn and the Lingayat movement gaining ground day by day, the community may think twice before supporting him, feel experts.
While Yeddyurappa is largely identified as the Lingayat leader, it is to be seen whether he would be able to woo kuruba votes, who are also in good numbers in the North Karnataka constituencies. Opposition leader in the Karnataka Assembly and a senior leader in the party, KS Eshwarappa is a prominent Kuruba leader in the BJP. It may be recalled here that Eshwarappa had defied party directions and had spearheaded Sangolli Rayanna Brigade. The rally exposed the differences between the two leaders which forced the party high command to do some damage control by pulling up both the leaders.
Only time will tell if this decision of the BJP that is aiming at Mission 150 -winning 150 of 224 constituencies in Karnataka - was worthy.