A fight between old foes with new party links

Ballari District, Vijayanagara constituency Congress Candidate Anand singh seen during the campaigning.

The fight in Vijayanagara constituency, which comprises the historic town of Hosapete, seems to be a repetition of the 2008 polls. But with a slight difference.

The same candidates in the fray — mining baron Anand Singh, and H R Gaviappa — but this time with new party affiliations.

Two-time MLA Anand Singh won from Vijayanagara in 2008 and then in 2013 both on the BJP ticket. A decade ago, he defeated Gaviappa, who had contested on the Congress ticket.

A few months ago, Singh, a one-time close associate of the Reddy brothers, stated that he was distancing himself from the BJP following differences of opinion over supporting Tipu Sultan Jayanti. He participated in the celebrations despite a diktat from the party leadership against attending the event.

But, Singh’s disassociation from the celebrations would have meant a political disaster. For the most dominant community in the constituency was that of Muslims with a population of 50,000.

The Muslims have been supporting Singh, despite him being in the BJP, due to his personal clout among voters and his philanthropic activities like construction of schools and hospitals for the poor.

Just ahead of the polls, Singh joined the Congress much to the chagrin of Gaviappa, who was expecting the ticket. A miffed Gaviappa jumped ship to the BJP.

Singh is an accused in several cases of illegal mining filed by the CBI and the SIT, Karnataka Lokayukta.

His induction into the Congress, despite opposition from some quarters, is seen as the party’s efforts to use his financial clout and popularity to maximise the chances of winning the seat.

There are a large number of voters from the Valmiki community (45,000), Lingayats (25,000) and Kurubas (20,000) in the constituency.

Singh is of the opinion that he would get the support of Muslims, Valmikis and Lingayats – an unbeatable combination. But it may not be as easy as he thinks. Besides Gaviappa, there was another Congress aspirant Deepak Kumar Singh, Anand Singh’s cousin.

Being denied the ticket, Deepak is now contesting on the JD(S) ticket and is likely to eat into Anand Singh’s vote base.

Gaviappa is going around the town blaming Anand Singh for the closure of the Indian Sugar Refineries (ISR) in Hosapete, which is said to have affected nearly 28,000 sugarcane growers.

He is also blaming Singh for the poor plight of a large number of mining labourers in the constituency.

The votes of the sugarcane growers and labourers could prove to be the deciding factor.

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A fight between old foes with new party links

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