Fri, 22 Mar 2013 01:00:01 GMT

Karnataka BJP gets new chief ahead of assembly polls



New Delhi/Bangalore, March 21 (IANS) The BJP Thursday named Lok Sabha member and long-time RSS activist Pralhad Joshi as the party's Karnataka unit president, ending two weeks of dilly-dallying after incumbent K. S. Eshwarappa quit March 7.

The appointment of the 50-year-old Joshi, announced by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Rajnath Singh in New Delhi, comes ahead of the state assembly polls on May 5.

A party release said that Joshi's "appointment comes into immediate effect."

Pralhad Venkatesh Joshi is from Dharwad, the home town of Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar, which is about 430 km north of Bangalore. He is representing Dharwad in Lok Sabha for the second time.

His website says "Earlier to and even after his election as MP, Joshi has identified himself as a man-in-service-of-mankind. A member of the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), since his young age, Shri. Joshi got himself trained in various training camps of RSS."

The BJP settling for Joshi is a clear indication that the party continues to bank heavily on north Karnataka to give it another term in office in the only southern state it has managed to come to power.

Shettar was also chosen as chief minister in July last year as is not only from north Karnataka but also belongs to the politically dominant Lingayat community. He is also the first chief minister from the region in 20 years.

Joshi is a Brahmin.

The BJP's dependence on north Karnataka is understandable as in the last assembly polls in May 2008, the party had won 55 of the 90 seats at state in 11 districts in the region, which exactly half of the 110 seats the party had bagged.

By giving two top posts - chief minister and state party president - to north Karnataka region, the BJP will now have to ensure that leaders from other regions, particularly the coastal Karnataka, are mollified as two from the area were also in the race.

The two were former chief minister and former party chief D. V. Sadananda Gowda, who has of and on been publicly giving vent to his displeasure at the way the party is being run in the state, and Lok Sabha member Nalin Kumar Kateel.

Apparently the drubbing the BJP suffered in the coastal region in the recent municipal elections has tilted the balance in favour Joshi, though the party fared poorly in his home district Dharwad also.

While BJP is still working on caste-region combine to win poll battle, the party's former leader B.S. Yeddyurappa stole a march over it Thursday by releasing the first list of 69 candidates of his Karnataka Janata Party (KJP).

Yeddyurappa, who quit as BJP chief minister in July 2011 over mining bribery charges and the party in November last year, had made defeat of his former party as his main aim.

He has said KJP would fight all the 224 seats. The assembly has 224 elected and one nominated member.

The state Congress leaders, president G. Parameshwara and leader of the opposition in the assembly Siddaramiah are in New Delhi to finalise the party candidates in consultation with central party leaders.

The other main party, the Janata Dal-Secular, has said it would release the first list of its nominees by March 23.

The nominations open April 10 and close April 17. Vote count in on May 8.

©Indo-Asian News Service

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