Why HD Kumaraswamy eager to play an away match in Chikkaballapur

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The Chikkaballapur Lok Sabha constituency in Karnataka is set for an interesting contest this year. Besides two former chief ministers of the southern state, namely, Veerappa Moily of the Congress and HD Kumaraswamy of the Janata Dal (Secular), the contest also features a former BJP state minister B N Bache Gowda, a heavyweight in these parts.

Two former CMs and one former minister in fray

The interesting part of the Chikkaballpur story is that both the former chief minister joined the fray quite late. While Union minister Moily, who is the sitting MP here, was doubtful initially as the Congress was not sure about his winnability and he even started pitching for his son, Kumaraswamy was caught in a fix in choosing the constituency. He left his stronghold

Was HD Kumaraswamy afraid of a hat-trick of losses?

Bangalore Rural, from where he was chosen as the MP in 2009, to choose Chikaballapur. This was quite surprising for Bangalore Rural has been a bastion of the JD(S). Did the consecutive losses of his wife Anitha Kumaraswamy in Channapatna and Bangalore Rural constituencies in the assembly and Lok Sabha bypoll within a gap of few months force him to rethink his strategy?

Pro-JDS wave in Chikkaballapur?

Kumaraswamy though said that he would consult the people of Ramnagaram, the assembly constituency which he represents at the moment before filing his nomination from Chikballapur, he also added that the local leaders of Chikballapur backed his candidature saying that there was a pro-JDS wave in that constituency and that he himself should take on Moily. Another theory  said that Kumaraswamy left Bangalore Rural to Prabhakar Reddy, a rich candidate, because he wanted to strengthen the party in other parts of the state.

From Lok Sabha to assembly and then assembly to Lok Sabha: Is Kumaraswamy looking for gold?

But do such defence from a man who has made the action of switching between the assembly and Lok Sabha faster than even a Bruce Lee kick, sound realistic? For those who are new to Kumaraswamy's history of electoral politics, he was elected as the MLA from Ramnagaram in 2008 but resigned from the seat to contest the 2009 parliamentary elections from Bangalore Rural (did he consult the people of Ramnagaram then?). He again decided to contest the 2013 assembly polls from Ramanagaram and quit the MP's post after getting elected. And now he is planning to contest the Lok Sabha election from Chikkaballapur. To add to the story, his record as a parliamentarian. He had just 32 per cent attendance and never asked a question in the House. He also took part in just two parliamentary discussions.

What exactly explains Kumaraswamy's fickle-mindedness?

There could be three reasons for the JD(S) leader's migration from Bangalore Rural to Chikkaballapur.

First, with Congress minister DK Shivakumar gaining strength in Bangalore Rural (Shivakumar's brother DK Suresh defeated Kumaraswamy's wife in the August bypoll) at the expense of his party, Kumaraswamy is in a desperate need to find a greener pasture to extend his political career. Chikaballapur is a viable option to explore for its sitting MP represents a tainted government at the Centre which is plagued by an immense anti-incumbency factor.

Kumaraswamy is fishing in troubled water so that he gets a prize post May 16

Moily seems to be on a tricky wicket this time not only because of his 'outsider' tag (he is from Mangalore and allegedly kept his focus on that) but also his stubborn stand on the controversial Yettinahole project and showing little confidence on local leaders. His popularity is so low that when state Chief Minister Siddaramaiah asked the people in a taluk in Chikkaballapur to elect him, they shouted together that Moily would lose in the April 17 elections.

Such a situation gives a perfect opportunity to a opportunist politician like Kumaraswamy to explore his chances. It will be a big revenge of sort if he can topple Moily in a Congress stronghold for the Congress has made serious dents in his own backyard in Bangalore Rural. Kumaraswamy is taking favours of a couple of financially sound leaders from Chikkaballapur and is also hoping that the voters of this constituency remembers his work as the chief minister during 2006-07 when Chikkaballapur was made a separate district.

Second, a seasoned politician like Kumaraswamy knows that if the post-May 16 scenario at the Centre resembles instability with none of the sides being able to call the shots, the idea of the Third Front, of which his father is a prominent leader, might gain a relevance and there could be all possibility

to get a slice of the cake in the form ministerial berth and perks. Who would care for a Ramnagaram then?

And the third reason could be an understanding between the Congress and JD(S) over Chikkaballpur. Karnataka is one of those few states where the Congress is hoping to do well in the ongoing Lok Sabha election and given the high unpopularity of its MP in Chikkaballapur, it might have to think out some strategy to retain this seat.

Chikkaballapur is a Vokkaliga-dominated constituency (2 lakh Vokkaliga voters out of a total of 16 lakh) and who will benefit the most if the Vokkaliga votes in this constituency gets split between the two Gowdas, H D Kumaraswamy and BJP's Bache Gowda? The BJP leadership perhaps has sensed this and decided to bring party's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi to campaign for Bache Gowda in Chikkaballapur on April 13.

All in all, the contest in Chikkaballapur has got an added dimension to it this time, thanks to the blending of the national and local political interests.

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