The entry of noted Kannada writer and Jnanpith Award winner Prof U R Ananthamurthy into the election fray for the four Rajya Sabha seats from Karnataka has queered the pitch for the ruling JDS-BJP coalition (now known as the Karnataka Development Front).
Prof Ananthamurthy’s candidature was propped up on the final day of nominations by a group of MLAs comprising rebel JDS leader Siddaramaiah, his supporters and some independent MLAs.
The entry of the Jnanpith Award winner — on whose suggestion the previous Congress government decided to change Bangalore’s name to the more Kannada-sounding Bengaluru, is expected to upset, in particular, the calculations of the former owner of BPL Telecom Rajeev Chandrashekhar.
The industrialist, propped up by the JDS (Deve Gowda and Kumaraswamy) and the BJP, was initially expected to grab the fourth RS seat by cashing in on the surplus MLA votes the two parties could garner after securing the seats of their own candidates — M Rajashekhar Murthy (JDS) and K B Shanapa (BJP).
The Congress, which has once again fielded outgoing RS member K Rahman Khan, has not nominated a second candidate and the surplus MLA votes of the party are now expected to be cast in favour of Ananthamurthy. With a minimum of 45 votes needed for a candidate to be elected in the first round itself the official candidates of the BJP (79 MLAs), the Congress (64) and the JDS (58) are all expected to sail through.
Until Prof Ananthamurthy’s entry, Rajeev Chandrashekhar was assured of the 34 surplus BJP votes and at least 12 more from the JDS and independents. The BJP high command has in fact issued a directive to the state BJP to ensure that its surplus votes are cast in favour of Chandrashekhar.
By playing the emotional Kannada card through Prof Ananthamurthy, the JDS rebels and the Congress have created an awkward situation for the Karnataka Development Front – a situation in which JDS candidate M Rajashekhar Murthy could himself end up losing.
Rajashekhar Murthy is incidentally a candidate of former prime minister H D Deve Gowda and is being supported by Gowda’s supposedly estranged son Chief Minister Kumaraswamy and the MLAs who currently swear allegiance to him.
The JDS and the BJP are in a piquant situation where even a whip to vote against Ananthamurthy can result in damages to their political image. Following his nomination, Ananthamurthy reflected the game plan by asking all MLAs to pick between ‘‘the dignity of Kannadigas and money power’’.
All MLAs who stand for the dignity, self-respect of Kannada and Karnataka will vote for him, he said. The literary giant said was convinced to contest the polls by Kannada chauvinist MLA Vatal Nagaraj and senior rebel JDS leader B R Patil.