Bengaluru: There are a lot of ifs and buts once the poll results are out...what if the BJP had won 17 seats like in 2008 instead of a paltry 11? What if candidate selection had been better?
Deccan Chronicle caught up with the saffron party's Bengaluru strongman R. Ashok to check with him why the BJP could not come up with a better show in the IT City? Ashok refused to accept the blame saying they had done well in Bengaluru South (his terrain) and Central Lok Sabha constituencies, but fared poorly in Bengaluru North, represented by Union Minister, Sadananda Gowda, with whom he does not share the best of relations. "In Bengaluru North, we lost three seats - Hebbal, Dasarahalli and Byatarayanapura. In Bengaluru South, except for BTM Layout, we won all seats and we are confident about retaining Jayanagar," he said defending himself. Ashok also denied reports that he did not campaign enough in RR Nagar, a Vokkaliga dominated constituency which the Congress won saying he did campaign for five days.
When it comes to BJP affairs in Bengaluru, it is the party’s Vokkaliga face, former Deputy Chief Minister R. Ashok, who calls the shots along with Union Minister H.N. Ananth Kumar. The BJP’s state unit too has little say in the party’s Bengaluru unit even when it comes to appointment of city office bearers and selection of candidates for the Legislative Assembly or Council.
But the performance of the BJP’s city unit in the Assembly polls has not been satisfactory. While in 2008 the BJP won 17 of the 25 seats in Bengaluru and in 2013, 12, in 2018, its tally fell to 11 seats. Party workers hold their leaders responsible, saying they are out of touch with ground reality and take unilateral decisions on appointing office-bearers. They are also accused of playing ‘adjustment’ politics with the Congress and JD(S) to safeguard their respective seats in the Assembly and Lok Sabha.
Deccan Chronicle spoke to Mr Ashok about the party’s poor performance in the city in the recent Assembly polls and he predictably noted that the BJP had done well in Bengaluru South and Central Lok Sabha constituencies, but poorly in Bengaluru North Lok Sabha constituency represented by Union Minister Sadananda Gowda, whom he doesn’t share the best of relations with. Excerpts from the interview:
What are the reasons for the party’s poor performance in Bengaluru during the Assembly elections?
Yes, I am not satisfied with the party’s performance in Bengaluru. In 2008 we won 17 seats, but this time we won 11. We lost a few seats owing to the Congress’ use of money and muscle power.
Did the party select weak candidates in most of the constituencies in Bengaluru?
No, candidates were selected by the party central leadership based on a survey. I don’t think we selected wrong candidates. But I don’t know what the yardsticks were in the survey conducted by the central leadership. Neither the city nor state unit selected the candidates for Bengaluru.
While the elections proved there was anti-incumbency against the Congress government, in Bengaluru the Bharatiya Janata Party failed to make the most of it.
Yes, at the last moment, the Congress took up many development initiatives in Bengaluru city, including white topping of roads. But we performed better in Bengaluru South and Bengaluru Central Lok Sabha constituencies. Our performance was poor in the Assembly constituencies under Bengaluru North Lok Sabha constituency. In the Bengaluru North Lok Sabha segment we lost three Assembly seats, Hebbal, Dasarahalli and Byatarayanapura. In the 2013 Assembly elections, we had won Hebbal and Dasarahalli. In Bengaluru South, except for BTM Layout, we won all Assembly segments and we are confident of retaining Jayanagar, where elections are still to be held. But it was due to our dismal performance in Bengaluru North, that our tally has been reduced to 11.
How many seats did you expect in Bengaluru?
I expected 17. We gained two seats in Govindarajnagar and Chickpet, but lost two seats, Hebbal and Dasarahalli.
According to party insiders, your influence in the party is declining due to the city unit's performance in the BBMP and Assembly elections.
No, there is no question of my influence declining in the party. As the party central leadership selected the candidates, I did not have much say in the matter. I think the central leadership took the right decision in selecting candidates based on a survey and reduced our burden.
It was said that you were not interested in campaigning for the party candidate in R.R.Nagar constituency
No this is a baseless allegation. In fact, I did campaign for five days in the constituency. I am not disappointed with the party’s selection of candidate for R.R. Nagar.
Did Indira Canteens of the last government work with the poor urban voters of Bengaluru?
People did not vote for the Congress due to the subsidised food provided through Indira Canteens. Money power worked in favour of the Congress more than these canteens.