Cong bets on Ugrappa for Bellary Lok Sabha seat

Cong bets on Ugrappa for Bellary Lok Sabha seat

V S Ugrappa

Ending days of confusion, the Congress on Monday decided to field its senior leader V S Ugrappa for the Bellary Lok Sabha bypoll.

Although seen as an outsider to Ballari, the party zeroed in on Ugrappa’s candidature because he emerged as the “strongest contender” from nearly a dozen aspirants who were in the fray for the ticket, sources said.

Ugrappa, an incumbent MLC and an advocate by profession, hails from Pavagada in the Tumakuru district. But the fact that Ugrappa belongs to the dominant Valmiki/Nayaka community of the ST and his past association with the party’s campaign against illegal mining in Ballari worked in his favour, it is said.

“I have a deep connection with Ballari,” Ugrappa said. “I’ve worked towards the welfare of tribal communities in that region. I was responsible for the erection of the Valmiki statue in Vidhana Soudha, for the setting up of Valmiki study chairs at Hampi and Gulbarga universities and so on.” He also pointed out that he headed the Congress fact-finding committee on illegal mining in Ballari during the BJP regime (2008-2013).

Ugrappa belongs to the Ooru Nayaka community as he takes on BJP’s J Shantha, the sister of the saffron party warhorse B Sreeramulu, who is a Myasa Nayaka. The two communities have been at loggerheads ever since the BJP chose Sreeramulu over S Thippeswamy, an Ooru Nayaka, to contest from the Molakalmuru Assembly constituency in the polls earlier this year.

The other option before the Congress was Venkatesh Prasad, who lost out because his reputation was confined to the Bellary Assembly constituency represented by his brother B Nagendra, according to sources. “On the surface, politically, Ugrappa appeared to be a stronger candidate,” one leader said. Ballari district in-charge minister D K Shivakumar has been entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring the Congress’ victory in the Bellary Lok Sabha bypoll. Interestingly, party insiders say Ugrappa and Shivakumar do not have a good rapport.

The AICC also announced the candidature of Anand Nyamagouda for the Jamkhandi Assembly constituency.