The Karnataka Congress is speedily losing its leaders; not coincidently many of those who have quit the party in recent times are from the old Mysuru region otherwise known as the Cauvery belt. The Bharatiya Janata Party is eagerly eyeing to lure the defecting congressmen with their eyes set on winning the Congress bastions in the region. The 22 assembly seats from three districts of Mysuru, Chamarajanagar and Mandya have been elusive to the BJP which now sees an opportunity to beat the Congress on its home turf.
First, it was Siddaramaiah's former cabinet minister and Dalit strongman Srinivas Prasad and now it is veteran Congressman S M Krishna who quit the party. Senior leaders from the Mysuru region including MLC D Made Gowda sent their resignation letters to the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee president Dr G Parameshwar. Reports suggest that another mass leader, Ambareesh may defect to the BJP following his grouse with Siddaramaiah for being dropped from the cabinet. However, neither Ambareesh nor either party of Congress and BJP has confirmed the same.
Why BJP wants Cauvery belt
Coastal Karnataka and north Karnataka have historically been favourable to the BJP, while the Janata Dal-Secular is almost a non-entity, Congress has been the BJP's arch rival in both these regions. The Cauvery belt, however, with the strong Vokkaliga presence and high farmer representation, has been the bastion of the Congress with JD-S having significance presence. With Congress leaders from the region quitting the party, the BJP eyes an opportunity. These leaders have massive appeal in the old Mysuru region and the crowds that gathered to welcome Krishna and his wife in Mandya on Sunday were reflective of the same.
Srinivas Prasad joined in the BJP soon after he quit from the Congress, miffed over being dropped from the Cabinet, the Nanjangud strongman has promised to win the seat for the BJP this time around. S M Krishna is said to have met Amit Shah before he resigned from the Congress fuelling speculations of him joining the BJP. While leaders of the BJP in Karnataka including B S Yeddyurappa welcoming S K Krishna to join the BJP, the veteran politician has remained mum but political observers believe that it is only a matter of time before Krishna expresses his support to the BJP directly or in implied sense. Whether or not S M Krishna and Ambareesh join the BJP, the leaders maintaining their distance from the Congress is more than enough for the BJP to gain a foothold in the 22 assembly seats of the Cauvery belt.
How the numbers have been so far
Karnataka will see assembly elections in 2018 and things are not as rosy as the Congress would have liked it. In 2013, thanks to the infighting in the BJP and senior leader like B S Yeddyurappa floating a new party, even traditional BJP bastions in North and coastal Karnataka saw massive favour to the Congress. The first ever BJP government in Karnataka was decimated by the Congress that gained a clear majority with 121 assembly seats.
In 2013 the Congress won two seats of the seven in Mandya, eight of the 11 assembly constituency in Mysuru and all the four constituencies in Chamarajanagar region. The BJP failed to get a single seat and was a bigger failure than its 2008 run. In 2008 the BJP had managed to win two seats in Mysuru while Congress won eight, in Mandya and Chamarajanagar the BJP had failed to win any seat. The Congress, on the other hand, had won all four in Chamarajanagar and two of the seven seats in Mandya region.
It was the JD-S that managed to retain its bastions throughout the 2008 and 2013 assembly polls. With heavyweights like Srinivas Prasad on their side, the seat of Nanjangud is almost certain to be won by the BJP. If S M Krishna and Ambareesh join the party, major changes will be seen in the vote share of Mandya, Maddur, Srirangapatna and Malavalli assembly constituencies. The BJP is now putting in its resources to woo the leaders who can change its fortunes in traditional Congress bastions in the upcoming assembly polls in Karnataka.