Hebbal loss seen as vindication of sorts for Siddu camp in Congress

Party had rejected his candidate choice, messed up selection in Devadurga

Hebbal loss seen as vindication of sorts for Siddu camp in Congress

The Congress might have lost the bypoll to Hebbal Assembly constituency, but it is construed as a victory to the camp of Chief Minister Siddaramaiah in the party, which wanted to field independent MLC Byrati Suresh as the candidate.

Sources in the Congress said the senior leaders were divided in their stand over the candidate selection. It had, in a way, become original Congressmen vs ‘migrants’ in the party. Siddaramaiah, who is seen as a leader of the migrant camp, wanted to field his close follower Suresh. The latter had done much groundwork in the constituency to contest the bypoll.

Suresh’s brother Byrati Basavaraj is Congress MLA from KR Puram, Bengaluru. The Byrati brothers, who are realtors, have developed considerable political clout ever since Siddaramaiah became the chief minister. The Byrati brothers had been calling the shots in the party affairs in Bengaluru, leading to a lot of anxiety among senior leaders. For instance, the party’s candidate for the recently held Legislative Council polls from Bengaluru Urban was decided by the Byrati brothers, the sources said.

The Congress leaders, those belonging to the original Congressmen camp, opposed Siddaramaiah’s choice. These leaders wanted to check the growing clout of the Byratis. Hence they, including Congress leader in Lok Sabha Mallikarjuna Kharge, backed the candidature of C K Abdul Rahaman Sharief, grandson of C K Jaffer Sharief though he had lost the 2013 Assembly elections from the same constituency. The Byratis and their followers, as a result, did not show much interest in the campaign after the party decided to field Sharief, the sources said.

Suresh’s supporters repeatedly embarrassed the party by openly shouting slogans over the denial of ticket to their leader during the campaign. The party failed to rein them in. Besides, Sharief was not in touch with the constituency people, especially the party workers, after his defeat in the 2013 elections. Many leaders of the minority community were unhappy with the party’s choice, sources said.

In Devadurga, the party dillydallied on the candidate selection: whether to field widow of late Venkatesh Naik or his son (finally, they chose his son Rajashekar Naik). The party failed to woo the electorate despite half a dozen ministers camping in these constituencies during the campaign. Energy Minister D K Shivakumar was in charge of Hebbal, while Public Works Minister H C Mahadevappa spearheaded the campaign in Devadurga.

The party, however, made the right moves in Bidar. It decided to field Rahim Khan, much in advance. Unlike Sharief, Khan had kept in touch with the constituency people after he lost in 2013. Khan, who is into education, had earned the goodwill of the people by supplying drinking water. That was the reason he won with a huge margin of 22,825 votes, the sources said.

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