Bangalore: “This is a seat for a Muslim,” Jaffer Sharief quotes the delimitation commissioner as having told him (about Bangalore Central) a few years back, when Bangalore Urban district was split into three Lok Sabha constituencies based on its population.
Well, the one thing central to the Bangalore Central constituency is that it isn’t, really, all that central – it spans all the way from Mahadevapura in far-east Bangalore to Shantinagar in the heart of Bangalore to Rajajinagar in west Bangalore. Among the eight segments that make up Bangalore Central, four are being ruled by Congress MLAs, three by BJP MLAs and one – Chamarajpet – by the JDS’ Zameer Ahmed Khan.
And the Congress has chosen a Muslim as its candidate – only, it isn’t CK Jaffer Sharief, the party’s 80-year-old warhorse. Whether his public tiff with another Muslim Congressman K Rahman Khan cost him his ticket is a bygone issue – Sharief went on hunger strike last year to demand a CBI probe into alleged scams by Khan. But how these two influential leaders’ tiff will affect this election will be the crux of the Congress’ worries. Sharief has been making friends in the JDS this past week.
The constituency has large Muslim and Christian populations – and has four MLAs who are from these communities. So sitting MP PC Mohan of the BJP is on weak footing. Mohan – formerly a BJP MLA – became a first-time MP in 2009 when this constituency had just been carved after delimitation. At the time, Yeddyurappa was chief minister and BJP delivered 19 of the 28 MP seats in Karnataka – though it lost nationally.
Mohan rode the wave of the incumbent state government. He also won partly because the Congress had fielded a Christian, the JDS, a Muslim – and minority votes had got divided.
It’s perhaps one of the reasons why Mohan brought in BJP’s colourful orator Venkaiah Naidu to address a rally here two weeks back – he spoke Telugu. And in his speech, referred to the large Tamil and Telugu speaking populations of slums in the region, asking them to vote keeping in mind, if nothing else, price rise. Because, while the BJP may not have an appeal with the religious minority communities, it is trying to build an appeal among the linguistic minorities – they form a large part of the migrant labour class among low-income groups. Mohan himself campaigns in Telugu, Tamil, Kannada and a couple of other languages.
JDS is yet to announce who its candidate will be this time – but Congress has fielded the strapping 32-year-old Rizwan Arshad, its youth wing president who has shown he can wield quite some influence when it matters – to his credit, he has defeated Union Railway Minister Mallikarjuna Kharge’s son Priyank Kharge in the youth Congress elections, three years ago. He has also tried to mend fences by meeting Sharief after he was officially declared the candidate. To that extent, he is charting out a tactful yet affirmative career-path for himself. Rizwan is considered very close to Rahul Gandhi and has been a national secretary of the NSUI and All India Youth Congress earlier.
The other man he is up against is V Balakrishnan of AAP. A political novice. A corporate biggie. A dreamer who was chief financial officer at Infosys. A man known for his straight-forwardness as much as his colourful presentations as Infosys CFO – he used to constantly pepper boring financial charts with Bollywood songs while presenting quarterly earnings if the company, those in the know say.
But the disconnect is evident. His first rallies didn’t see much crowd. AAP can’t really attract crowds by making an exhibition of showing its leaders sitting on the floor of the dias in all its rallies – it doesn’t need to shower freebies, but what it needs is to give an action-plan. Something you don’t get to see anywhere.
At the same time, while it seems like AAP is fielding candidates for the sake of fielding them – that in itself it also not a bad reason. “When we have tried to build a national movement against both corrupt parties, why should we field candidates only in a few constituencies? We should give people – even if it’s one voter – the option of voting for AAP in all places,” says one AAP member.
AAP had to convince Bala to actually contest – he was initially reluctant… but “I just took my time making up my mind… there are far more serious, larger issues… the Delhi example is what inspired me,” he says.
Like Nandan, his is a clean image – of making money through honest means, finding party funding through transparent means. But the crowds that Bala attracts are mostly curious-onlookers. While there are pockets in the elite areas where the concept of weeding out corruption through a movement like this has taken shape, that message hasn’t petered down to the last man.
If you went by the voter pattern break-up in the Assembly elections of 2013, the Congress has an edge over the BJP. The Congress polled more votes than the BJP did in this region. But if the JDS fields a person from a minority community yet again, it would serve to break up minority votes, and the BJP would gain… But then again, the BJP too could face a split in its educated voters,who may opt for AAP.
courtesy kashmir news agency and TNIE