Cong, BJP in stiff battle for Bidar North

Cong, BJP in stiff battle for Bidar North

Cong, BJP in stiff battle for Bidar North

There seems to be a stiff competition for the Bidar North Assembly seat, where a byelection is scheduled for this Saturday. The bypoll is necessitated by the death of sitting MLA and former minister Gurupadappa Nagamarapalli.

As campaigning reaches a crescendo, analysts say the Congress has an edge over the other candidates, including those from the BJP and the JD(S).  The party has fielded Rahim Khan, who lost the 2013 election by a slender margin of 2,571 votes to Nagamarapalli, then a candidate of the fledgling KJP. The party has since merged with the BJP.

Observers say that Khan has been in touch with his supporters and acts as a link between the voters and the ruling party. The high-pitched canvassing by the party for the recent elections to the Legislative Council from the local bodies’ constituency – in which Congress candidate Vijay Singh registered a thumping victory – is said to have given the party an edge. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has also campaigned vigorously for Khan.

The Congress traditionally banks on the support of Muslims and Scheduled Castes (SCs), who have a sizeable presence in the constituency. Muslims constitute 24 per cent of the electorate and the SCs 14 per cent.

The Kurubas and the Gondas – coming under the ST category – form seven per cent of the voters and they are likely to rally behind the ruling party. In the last elections, Khan had succeeded in securing a major chunk of the votes of other communities, apart from those of the minority communities.

Candidate selection became a puzzle for the BJP, as none from Nagamarapalli’s family came forward to contest. Initially, the party considered a few names among local leaders, but finally decided to field two-time former legislator Prakash Khandre.  Tagged as an outsider by rivals, it became tough for him to assure voters that he would be present in the constituency in future, it is said. But none can take his presence in the fray lightly. He comes from the dominant Lingayat community – commanding a 28 per cent share in the electorate.

Votes from castes like the Brahmins, Vaishyas, Marwaris and Kshatriyas – who have traditionally backed the BJP - may also come to his kitty. The JD(S) – which was reluctant to enter the fray – announced the candidature of Ayaz Khan (a former Congressman) at the last minute. The party had, in the past, garnered the votes of Muslims, Christians and castes like Gondas and Lingayats. But, it is felt that it may be difficult to woo them in the bypoll, in the absence of a credible face.

In the past, Bidar voters have preferred national parties, except in 2013 when they chose KJP, given the influence of Nagamarapalli.  The JD(S) is hopeful of the prospects of Ayaz Khan as he belongs to the minority community. But analysts say his chances are bleak.

The Bahujan Samaj Party has fielded Madanna Vaijanath, a retired officer in the Health department. Ten candidates are in the fray, whose fortunes lie in the hands of 2,04,252 voters.