Bellary bypoll: Cong ropes in Lingayat leaders

Bellary bypoll: Cong ropes in Lingayat leaders

Bypolls 2018 Karnataka

The Congress has roped in Veerashaiva-Lingayat leaders to woo the community in the Bellary Lok Sabha bypoll even as the party is said to be wary that the ‘outsider’ tag attached to its candidate V S Ugrappa may work against it.

Although Ugrappa belongs to the dominant ST community - the Bellary Lok Sabha seat is reserved for ST candidates - the Congress is also eyeing the Lingayat votes that are significant in number.

Ugrappa faces a tough challenge from BJP’s J Shantha, who is the sister of the saffron party’s warhorse B Sriramulu, who has tried to position himself as a ST leader.

DKS in charge

The Congress has deployed a 64-member team headed by Ballari district in charge minister D K Shivakumar to ensure the party’s victory. The team notably includes many Lingayat leaders - Sharanprakash Patil, Basavaraj Rayareddi, Allum Veerabhadrappa among others.   

“At least 25% of voters in each of the nine Assembly constituencies in the Ballari district are Lingayats. The challenge is to bring their votes out,” a Congress leader said. “Everybody has been assigned a role, which includes reaching out to the Lingayat leaders.”

Voter sentiment

The party also hopes that Shivakumar’s recent public apology for the previous Congress government’s decision to accord ‘religious minority’ status to the Lingayat faith might help swing some voter sentiment. A Congress defeat could jeopardise the credibility of those claiming to be champions of the ST community within the party, the leader pointed out. “That’s why there is much at stake for the Jarkiholi brothers.”

The party is also sorting out issues pertaining to local leadership. Apparently, a section of the local cadre is unhappy with Ugrappa’s candidature. Shivakumar, RDPR Minister Krishna Byre Gowda, Social Welfare Minister Priyank Kharge among others have been tasked with ironing out differences ahead of the
November 3 bypoll.

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