Karnataka bypoll: Close contest on cards in Bellary

Karnataka bypoll: Close contest on cards in Bellary

Kicker: JD(S) supremo shares a word with former chief minister Siddaramaiah during the campaigning for V S Ugrappa, the Congress candidate Bellary Lok Sabha bypolls, in Kudligi on Monday. DH Photo

A multi-pronged contest is on the cards for the Bellary Lok Sabha bypoll, which has all the potential for a last-minute twist and a surprise ending.

BJP Valmiki strongman B Sriramulu sister J Shantha is pitted against Congress MLC V S Ugrappa in this mineral-rich constituency which has been reserved for Scheduled Tribes (ST) following the delimitation in 2008.

Once a Congress bastion, the constituency grabbed national attention due to the famous electoral battle in 1999, which saw the then Congress president Sonia Gandhi make her electoral debut, defeating senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj.  But the BJP wrested it in 2004 and has retained it since then.

A very interesting contest is on the cards this time too with the Congress taking it as a prestige issue to capture the seat from the BJP.

The bypoll has been necessitated following Sriramulu vacating the seat in May, this year, after he won the Molkalmuru Assembly seat. Sriramulu had won the seat defeating N Y Hanumanthappa of the Congress by a margin of 85,000 votes.

DKS vs Sriramulu

The byelection is also turning out to be a proxy war between Congress’ Man Friday and Water Resources Minister D K Shivakumar and Sriramulu. 

Both are known for their electoral management skills and never-say-die attitude.

Congress candidate Ugrappa and BJP’s Shantha have their own pluses and minuses.

Ugrappa is considered an outsider, he is from Pavadaga in Tumakuru district, while Shantha is considered a non-performer in her previous tenure in Parliament (2009-2004).

The continued rift between Shivakumar and Municipal Administration Minister Ramesh Jarkiholi is causing embarrassment to the Congress. Jarkiholi has taken exception to Shivakumar’s apology on the move of the previous Congress regime to consider the demand for a separate religion for Lingayat faith.

Another big headache for the the Congress is that it is facing a divided house in the local unit. Hosapete (Vijayanagara) MLA Anand Singh and Bellary (Rural) MLA B Nagendra are both upset for not getting Cabinet berths, and were even considering jumping ship to the BJP. Jarkiholi, who is trying to emerge a leader of the ST community, is upset with the party for not making him in-charge of party campaign in the bypoll to Valmiki-dominant constituency.

Both the Congress and the BJP are leaving no stone unturned to capture the ST-Lingayat vote combine.

Sriramulu commands enormous clout over the ST community.  Not to be outdone, the Congress has deployed a 64-member team, with a host of Lingayat leaders, in the constituency to ensure the party’s victory. 

There are at least 25% Lingayat votes in the constituency and which way their vote will turn could emerge as the deciding factor. 

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