Congress pits political pushover against arch rival Yeddyurappa

 Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and other Congress leaders have been going ballistic against BJP state president B S Yeddyurappa in run up to the May 12 Assembly elections.

Despite the Congress’ bitter tirade against its arch rival Yeddyurappa, whom it has been often calling a former jail bird, the ruling party has fielded a political weakling to take on the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate in his fiefdom
-Shikaripura in Shivamogga district.

The Congress has announced that G B Malatesh, locally known as Goni Malatesh, as its candidate from Shikaripura. Malatesh, who belongs to the Kuruba community, is Shikaripura Block Congress president and will be trying his luck in the electoral battle for the first time against Yeddyurappa, a veteran of many elections.

Local Congress leaders feel that the party could have given a good fight if it had fielded former MLA Mahalingappa or Nagarada Mahadevappa. Though the names of MLC Prasanna Kumar and Mahalingappa were doing the rounds for the ticket, the Congress decided to field Malatesh.

Unlike in the Chamundeshwari constituency, where the BJP and the JD(S) seem to be united in taking on the
Congress nominee Siddaramaiah, there is no such keen contest on the cards in Shikaripura as the Congress has fielded a political ‘’non-entity” and the JD(S) a former government official.

If Yeddyurappa faces some kind of a contest, it would be from the JD(S) nominee H T Baligar who is leaving no stone unturned to put up a brave fight against the BJP leader. Baligar has earned a good name for himself among people of the constituency over the last few years.

Yeddyurappa has won the Assembly polls from Shikaripura seven times since 1983. If he emerges victorious this time, he would become the first politician from the Malnad district to be elected as an MLA for eight terms.

Former chief minister the late S Bangarappa was the only politician from the district who had registered victory in the Assembly polls for seven times in a row from Sorab, beginning 1967.

After winning four times without a break, Yeddyurappa lost the elections in 1999. However, he manged to win in 2004, 2008 and 2013 elections.

In the last 35 years, the BJP leader has faced many formidable local leaders as well as political stalwarts such as the late Bangarappa.

Yeddyurappa’s one-time aide and former MLC Shanthaveerappa Gouda, who had the potential to put up a good fight against him, returned to the BJP fold after losing to B Y Raghavendra in the 2014 by-election from Shikaripura by a narrow margin as the Congress candidate.

Though the BJP has succeeded in maintaining its hold over Shikaripura, its margin of victory was just 6,430 votes in 2014 bypoll: its second lowest in the last nine elections.

This sent a warning signal to the BJP strongman. Realising that Gouda may pose a threat to the BJP’s victory in the next polls, Yeddyurappa lured Gouda and brought him back to the BJP.

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