LS polls: On his home turf, K'taka CM Siddaramaiah plays Vokkaliga card against BJP

Bengaluru, April 4 (IANS) Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on his home turf Mysuru and Chamarajanagar Lok Sabha seats is leaving no stone unturned to lure voters, as delivering a clear victory on these seats is a prestige battle for the Congress leader.

Siddaramaiah has been camping in Mysuru for the last four days to campaign for Congress candidate M. Lakshman and has even resorted to playing the Vokkaliga card to slam the BJP.

Meanwhile, BJP candidate for the Mysuru-Kodagu seat Yaduveer Wadiyar, the titular head of the Mysore royal family, filed his nomination on Wednesday and held a huge roadshow in Mysuru, during which state BJP chief B.Y. Vijayendra, and former CM and state JD-S chief H.D. Kumaraswamy accompanied him.

With the region being a strong base of the JD-S, Siddaramaiah seems to be under more pressure.

Siddaramaiah claimed that the BJP had denied the ticket to a Vokkaliga leader, two-time BJP MP Pratap Simha and snubbed him politically. Siddaramaiah's close confidante Animal Husbandry Minister K. Venkatesh even said that former Prime Minister and JD-S leader H.D. Deve Gowda had ensured that Pratap Simha did not get the ticket.

However, sitting BJP MP from Mysuru-Kodagu Pratap Simha on Wednesday refuted these claims, saying Deve Gowda never tramples any leader.

Simha said that former PM Deve Gowda had spoken to Union Home Minister and BJP leader Amit Shah regarding his ticket. "Minister Venkatesh should also remember that it is Deve Gowda who helped him to grow politically," he added.

Addressing a public meeting in Mysuru recently, Siddaramaiah also said that if the Congress candidate does not win with a significant margin, he (CM) would land in trouble. He even asked the crowd whether they wanted him in power or not.

However, Siddaramaiah later clarified that the statements were made to make an effective appeal to voters and nothing should be surmised about it.

When asked about the caste card being played by Siddaramaiah, BJP candidate Wadiyar said that the voters of the Mysuru-Kodagu seat are already standing with the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. "We have to cast our votes as Indians. Nation first has been the philosophy on which election is contested. The country, Bharat is important," he added.

In another setback for Siddaramaiah, rebel BJP MLC H. Vishwanath announced his support to Wadiyar after state BJP president Vijayendra along with Wadiyar met him at his residence and sought support. Vishwanath had been attacking BJP and state leadership and praising CM Siddaramaiah until recently.

Siddaramaiah is also in a fix to play the social justice card, as the Mysuru rulers were the first in the country to introduce reservation in government jobs in pre-independent India. The Dalits, poor and oppressed classes revere the Mysuru royal family.

Even landlords in the region revere Mysuru kings for building the Krishna Raja Sagar water reservoir. CM Siddaramaiah has even instructed Congress leaders not to criticise Yaduveer as it would adversely impact them.

Congress candidate Lakshman, a close associate of CM Siddaramaiah, is projecting himself as a Vokkaliga leader.

On the Chamarajanagar reserve constituency, the Congress has gained the upper hand by pulling more than 30 prominent leaders from the BJP and JD-S. Notably, the family members of sitting BJP MP Srinivas Prasad, a tall Dalit leader from Mysuru region, have also joined the Congress.

Sunil Bose, son of Social Welfare Minister H.C. Mahadevappa, is the Congress candidate from the Chamarajanagar seat while the BJP has fielded S. Balaraj, a close associate of former CM B.S. Yediyurappa and former MLA.

BJP leaders claim that they will win the seat easily as Sunil Bose is facing outrage from Congress leaders of Chamarajanagar.

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