Bypoll set for photo finish

Charisma is Sriramulus USP; BJP, Cong caste their nets wide; JD(S) likely beneficiary

It is a question of prestige for Independent candidate Sriramulu, besides the two national parties - the BJP and the Congress.

Sidelined in the saffron party after his name cropped up in the Lokayukta report on illegal mining, this is a battle for ‘self respect’ for the former health minister.  The BJP, on its part, would be looking to retain its domination in the district, which it gained thanks largely to the ‘iron fist’ with which the Reddy brothers and Sriramulu ruled it.

The saffron party has had to start from scratch having burnt bridges with Sriramulu. No wonder, the party’s heavyweights and an array of ministers are camping in the constituency to turn the poll tide the BJP’s way.  

Opportunity for Cong

For the Congress, it’s an opportunity to redeem an empire lost, after being decimated by the BJP in a region where its victory was a given in every poll in the past. The Congress leaders had gone on a ‘padayatra’ from Bangalore to Bellary to highlight the plunder called mining in the iron ore-rich district.

Sriramulu faces illegal mining charges and is handicapped by the incarceration of his mentor G Janardhana Reddy. Yet, he has the charisma, that neither the candidate of the BJP nor the Congress has. He also has the deep pockets to boot.

An estimated 1.72 lakh voters will exercise their franchise, come Wednesday, in booths spread over nine wards of the Bellary Corporation, besides the 64 villages in the taluk. It’s the second election for the Bellary Rural constituency (reserved for ST) born out of the delimitation process in 2008. Sriramulu had lost to M Diwakar Babu of the Congress in 1999 in the Bellary seat. He had sweet revenge on Babu in the 2004 poll.

In 2008, he won from Bellary Rural with a thumping margin of 25,716 votes. Ramprasad of the Congress had polled an impressive 36,275 votes (33 per cent) that time and the party is fielding him once again, trying to cash in on his image, Sriramulu’s mining muck and the BJP’s scams.

Decisive vote

With a voter strength of 35,000, Muslims play a decisive role in the constituency. The Valmiki community, to which Sriramulu belongs, has 34,000 votes. The former minister is eyeing the Muslim and Christian votes. The BJP is looking to tap into the votes of Scheduled Castes and other communities - the Lingayats, Kurubas and the Balijas, with party leaders from the respective communities on the campaign trail.

The Congress has Siddaramaiah, Allum Veerabhadrappa, Anil Lad, Santosh Lad, D K Shivakumar, G Parameshwara and its Central leaders from the State busy campaigning in the constituency.

Having to fight the election on his own strength, Sriramulu is putting up a brave front and has avoided launching attacks on his opponents. His political future hinges on his performance in the bypoll.

Meanwhile, JD(S) State President H D Kumaraswamy has announced support for the Independents and it is a mystery as to who benefits from the support. The poll result also depends on which way the party’s district unit president - Suryanarayana Reddy - sways.

All the three major players are ready to splurge money to conquer Bellary Rural. Yet, it will be the voter, who is playing the cards close to his chest, who will have the last laugh.

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