Ballari bypoll: A Sriramulu vs DKS contest

Ballari bypoll: A Sriramulu vs DKS contest

The bypoll will be a prestige battle for Water Resources Minister D K Shivakumar (left) and BJP leader B Sriramulu. (DH Photo)

The Bellary seat will be the most keenly watched among the three Lok Sabha constituencies in Karnataka for which bypolls will be held on November 3.

The mine-rich constituency, once a Congress bastion, has been the scene of the famous electoral battle in which AICC president Sonia Gandhi made her electoral debut defeating senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj in 1999. Sonia won, but the BJP wrested the seat in the 2004 polls and has retained it since.

The present bypolls has been necessitated after sitting MP B Sriramulu of the BJP vacated the seat following his victory in the 2018 Assembly polls from Molkalmuru constituency in Chitradurga district. Sriramulu had won the seat defeating N Y Hanumanthappa of the Congress by a margin of 85,000 votes.

Ever since the constituency grabbed national attention, winning the seat has become a matter of prestige, both for the Congress and the BJP. As part of its coalition arrangement with the Congress, the JD(S) will not be contesting.

The BJP has made Sriramulu in-charge for shortlisting candidates and election management, while the Congress is likely to give the responsibility to Water Resources Minister D K Shivakumar, also in-charge of Ballari district.

Sriramalu commands an immense influence over the electorally strong Nayaka community in the constituency. The Congress faces the challenge of taking on Sriramulu, who is backed by the powerful Reddy brothers.

Besides, the Ballari unit of the Congress is faction-ridden. Hosapete (Vijayanagar constituency) MLA Anand Singh and Ballari (ST) constituency MLA B Nagendra have been openly demanding Cabinet berths and recently there was speculation that they may jump ship to the BJP.

The Congress is considering giving the ticket to B Ramprasad, who had contested the 2008 Assembly polls unsuccessfully or to B Nagendra.

The BJP may consider former MPs Joladarashi Shanta or Sanna Fakirappa. Shanta is Sriramulu’s sister and Fakirappa his uncle.

As far as the other two Lok Sabha seats for which bypolls will be held are concerned - the Vokkaliga-dominated Mandya is the bastion of the JD(S) while Shimoga is a BJP stronghold.