Photo finish in Hoskote's three-cornered contest

Sharath Bachegowda contested the seat in 2018 on the BJP ticket. (DH Photo)

Albeit Hoskote being one of the crucial seats for the BJP in the upcoming bypolls on December 5, the triangular contest here has raised the stakes for all candidates involved.

The constituency has largely been a stronghold of both the Bachegowda family and the Congress party. It wasn’t until 2008, that the BJP managed to win this Assembly seat, that too with B N Bachegowda contesting from the party.

Beginning from the second Assembly election till the 15, the Congress party has won this seat eight times, Janata party twice, Janata Dal (U), Janata Dal, Independent and BJP once each. The Bachegowda family has won the seat six times, with Chennabyre Gowda winning the seat as an independent candidate in the third Assembly and his son B N Bache Gowda going on to win five times representing the Janata Party, Janata Dal, the JD(U) and the BJP at different points.

While Sharath Bachegowda contested the seat in 2018 on the BJP ticket, he lost to rival MTB Nagaraj from the Congress by a margin of 7,597 votes. The other candidate to have won from here multiple times was N Chikke Gowda (also a Vokkaliga), a four-time MLA from Congress. 

The constituency has a unique situation with two rebels: MTB Nagaraj who joined the BJP from the Congress, and Sharath who protested against the BJP for giving ticket to Nagaraj, and is now contesting as an independent (backed by the JD(S).

Closer to the polls, voters perceive it to be a stiff contest between Sharath Bachegowda and Congress candidate Padmavathi Suresh. Loyalty to the Bachegowda family and the Congress party are advantages to the respective candidates. Nonetheless, MTB Nagaraj is expected to consolidate the non-Vokkaliga votes in the region.

“There is anger against the Bachegowda family in one section of the population. Nagaraj will get these votes apart from being able to consolidate the votes from other communities,” sources in the BJP said.

When DH spoke to residents in different parts of the constituency, popularity of the young independent leader was evident. Some resented MTB Nagaraj for jumping ship and deserting his party. “How can we trust someone who cannot stick to one party? We would any day vote for a party that we know, rather than a candidate whose future we are unsure,” said Munirayappa, a farmer in Hoskote.

However, a section of the population was in favour of the BJP candidate. “It’s true that he has quit his party. But he has done a lot of work. He has developed road infrastructure here like no other leader before,” said Mahadevappa, an agriculturist in Nandagudi, expressing solidarity with MTB Nagaraj.

Elsewhere in Sulibele, people believed there was a good chance for Congress candidate Padmavathi Suresh too. “Looking at the developments, Sharath and Padmavathi are likely to secure the maximum number of votes, with a couple of thousands difference in their share,” said Sabir Baig, a shop owner.

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