The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is likely to give prominence to Ananth Kumar Hegde, the firebrand MP from Uttara Kannada constituency in Karnataka, as it hopes to oust the incumbent Congress from the poll-bound state in 2018.
Hegde is currently the Union Minister of State for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship and a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
Soon after the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh results were declared, BJP national president Amit Shah spoke to Karnataka BJP core committee leaders to discuss the election strategy, sources said. This has clearly sent a message that the party leadership wants to maintain the tempo of victory and its aggressive approach to keep its workers’ morale high.
Sources said that though Hegde is not a member of the state core committee, he is likely to be a major face along with Yeddyurappa, who has been declared as the chief ministerial candidate. The leadership is said to be impressed with Hegde’s aggressive speeches in the ongoing “parivartan yatra”. It believes that he could be a better leader to effectively counter Chief Minister Siddaramaiah.
“In Siddaramaiah, Karnataka has a strong local leadership and, therefore, the party believes that it needs to be countered only through local faces. Therefore, there is a feeling that local faces should be projected, along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during the campaign. At the same time, we will highlight the anti-people policies of Siddaramaiah,” said a BJP leader.
The party, which came to power for the first time in 2008, lost in 2013, as its powerful leader B.S. Yeddyurappa, who was leading the government there, left it. However, this time, the party does not want to take any chances and has started doing its groundwork well in advance. After being re-inducted in the party, Yeddyurappa was made the state BJP president. The party has also announced him as the chief ministerial candidate for the 2018 Assembly elections.
Sources said that a cross section within the state unit is not happy with the functioning of Yeddyurappa, and therefore, efforts are being made to bring about unity in the organization. Union ministers Prakash Javadekar and Piyush Goyal, who have been appointed as election in-charge for Karnataka BJP, are scheduled to visit Bengaluru to make truce between the warring factions. To galvanise the cadre, the party started the 84-day “parivartan yatra” on 2 November.
The yatra, which will cover all the 224 Assembly constituencies across 30 districts in the state, will conclude in Mysore on 25 January.