Battle for Bengaluru explained: Who are in fray and what is at stake

The battle for Bengaluru seems to have grown tougher for the Congress

Lok Sabha polls Bengaluru Top: Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi and KPCC President DK Shivakumar during an election campaign rally in Bengaluru South; Below:Union Home Minister Amit Shah with BJP's Bengaluru South candidate Tejasvi Surya (PTI)

Bengaluru – the IT capital of India will go to polls to elect its three MPs on April 26, along with 11 other constituencies in the South Karnataka region, while the polling in the remaining 14 seats in North Karnataka will be held on May 7. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which conceded defeat in the Assembly elections exactly a year back, is confident of retaining all three seats in the state capital-- Bangalore South, Central and North -- as the city has always preferred the saffron party to any other in the Lok Sabha elections for two decades now, though denying a second consecutive term to any party in the state Assembly. 

A scorching summer and an acute water scarcity in the IT city made global headlines but it has not entered the political discourse barring a few passing references in this election. 

‘Gellona baa - Deshakke Modi, Dakshinakke Surya’ (Come, let’s win. Modi for the country, Surya for South) the campaign anthem for BJP’s Bangalore South candidate Tejaswi Surya plays in the loop and the incumbent sporting a T-shirt with the same slogan greets the voters during the roadshow and seeks his re-election from a constituency that’s considered BJP’s stronghold since 1977. 

Surya (33), an advocate turned politician, who won the seat in 2019 to become the youngest MP is pitted against former MLA Sowmya Reddy (41), daughter of Transport Minister R Ramalinga Reddy. Sowmya who lost the Jayanagar Assembly seat by a narrow margin last May is trying her luck in the Parliament polls as Jayanagar is one of the eight Assembly segments of the Parliament constituency. While the Congress holds only three segments but banking on the five guarantees to win them votes, the BJP is hoping to retain the seat. 

In 2019, Tejaswi Surya made his debut after five-term MP late Ananth Kumar, who served in both Vajpayee and Modi government, succumbed to cancer in 2018. Surya defeated Congress candidate B.K Hariprasad by 3.31 lakh votes in a constituency dominated by Brahmin and Vokkaliga communities and is home to the who’s who of the city including IT turks Narayana Murthy and Nandan Nilekani. 

This time, the BJP leader, who is busy campaigning in apartment complexes, gated communities, parks and popular restaurants, appeals to the voters to overcome voter apathy and come out to vote. 

“Last time, only 53% of voters voted. Everyone understands they are voting to pick the next Prime Minister. If the educated and well-informed people stay away from voting, the small section of voters who can be lured with inducements will decide who wins. Last time, I won with a three lakh margin and this time, I want you all to help me get a five lakh margin. So ensure 100 % voting in your circles,” said Surya, during his campaign in Shanti Park apartment in Jayanagar.

Taking a dig at his opponent, Surya tells people that Modi ji works for the future of the children of the country, unlike the Congress which is working to build the careers of the children of its ministers. The Congress chooses to focus on the beneficiaries of its guarantee schemes as Sowmya reminds her voters that the BJP always falters on its promises. Citing the example of devolution of funds, she argues the state’s share is ‘unjust’.

In Bangalore Central, BJP’s three-time MP PC Mohan (60) will be facing a fresh face – Mansoor Ali Khan, 51, an educationist. The Congress holds five of the eight Assembly segments, where four have a sizeable minority population. Two of the three segments held by the BJP are reserved for the scheduled caste. Interestingly, Mohan, an OBC leader has managed to win despite the constituency having a large number of Ahinda (Muslim, Dalit and backward class) voters who have traditionally backed the Congress, besides Tamil and Telugu-speaking migrants. Last time, Mohan had beaten Congress’ Rizwan Arshad by 70,968 votes. This time, Mohan is once again pinning his hopes on the Modi government’s achievement in urban infrastructure development and the PM's appeal among the educated voters. 

A former Indian Institute of Management professor and ex-director of RBI will be locking horns with a Union minister in Bangalore North. Shobha Karandlaje, 57, currently Udupi-Chikmaglur MP, was booed out of her constituency by party workers for being “inaccessible”. She was shifted to Bangalore North to replace incumbent and former chief minister DV Sadananda Gowda. Karandlaje, a firebrand Hindutva leader, who has earlier represented one of the eight (Yeshwantpur) Assembly constituency will take on Prof MV Rajeev Gowda, 60, a Wharton-educated academic and a former Rajya Sabha member. Both candidates belong to the Vokkaliga community. 

The constituency which was earlier with the highest number of registered voters (31.7 lakh) has a sizeable Ahinda population and might favour the Congress despite the party winning only three of the eight segments. BJP MLA from Yeshwantpur ST Somashkhar is canvassing for the Congress candidate. The BJP ‘s alliance with JDS, which holds sway over the Vokkaliga community, support from local MLAs and Modi’s charisma is hoped to work in favour of Karandlaje. Last time, Sadananda Gowda had defeated Congress candidate Krishna Byregowda by 1.47 lakh votes.

The battle for Bengaluru seems to have grown tougher for the Congress though both the national parties failed to provide for the fast-growing city buckling under concretisation, loss of green cover, lake encroachments and pollution, traffic jams, garbage mismanagement, depleting groundwater and potholed roads. In 2006, the H.D. Kumaraswamy government pushed for the amalgamation of Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (100 wards) with eight urban local bodies and 101 surrounding villages to create Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) with 198 wards. While the intention was to scale up infrastructure in the peripheral areas, it ended up escalating the land prices and did little to upgrade the neglected wards. Today, the BBMP is divided into 223 wards post delimitation. 

The serious lack of infrastructure is a reflection of political apathy as the city has had no elected body (city council) since September 2020. The BBMP) polls were deferred citing delimitation and the reservation of the wards by subsequent governments and both the national parties are to equally blame. 

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