Shimoga: In the battle for supremacy in Karnataka’s Malnad region, sons of two former Chief Ministers will lock horns for the prestigious Shimoga Lok Sabha seat in the third phase of polling on April 23.
Shimoga has been a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stronghold since 2004, and the right-wing party has again fielded its sitting MP B.Y. Raghavandra, son of former Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, to retain the seat for the fifth time in a row.
The ruling Congress and Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) combine too has renominated its joint candidate Madhu Bangarappa, the son of former Congress Chief Minister late S. Bangarappa (1933-2011).
JD-S candidate Madhu had lost to Raghavendra in the November 2018 by-election by a margin of 52,148 votes in a constituency comprising over 14.3 lakh electorates.
The by-poll was necessitated by the resignation of Yeddyurappa after he got elected from Shikaripura in the May 2018 Assembly elections and returned to state politics.
In fact, Raghavendra had won the seat for the first time in 2009, defeating Madhu’s father S. Bangarappa of the Congress by 52,893 votes in a triangular contest.
Ironically, Bangarappa, a party hopper, won the seat in 2004 on a BJP ticket and retained it when he resigned from the party and fought on a Samajwadi Party ticket in the 2005 by-election.
Yeddyurappa, who contested from Shimoga in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections after his party lost power in the 2013 Assembly polls, retained the seat for the BJP by defeating V. Manjunath Bhandary of the Congress by a whopping margin of 3.63 lakh votes.
As Yeddyurappa’s home turf, the Shimoga parliamentary constituency has been a BJP bastion from where the saffron party had won 7 out of the 8 Assembly segments in the May 2018 state elections.
“Raghavendra’s winning prospects are better even in a straight contest, as the party is well-entrenched in the constituency and more organised than the allies with an army of booth-level cadres and the backing of its parent organisation — the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS),” a political analyst told IANS here, about 300 km northwest of Bengaluru.
Though the BJP won 104 Assembly seats in the 225-member house in the 2018 state elections, its three-day government under Yeddyurappa resigned on May 19, 2018 after the party fell nine short of the halfway-mark (113) for a simple majority.
“The post-poll alliance between the Congress and the JD-S to keep the BJP out of power and form a coalition government in the state did not go down well with the electorates in the Malnad region, as they felt that Yeddyurappa and his party were denied their due of forming the government under the Lingayat community’s tallest political leader,” recalled the analyst.
Though the JD-S has never won from Shimoga in the 18 Lok Sabha elections, including two by-polls, held so far, it is betting on its ally Congress to ensure Madhu’s victory as a joint candidate, hoping that the latter’s votes get transferred to him.
“By fielding a joint candidate, we are ensuring that the secular votes get transferred to our ally’s candidate Madhu so that he can avenge his defeat in the by-election by a small margin,” a Congress official told IANS.
Even as the BJP hopes to ride on the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to win by a big margin, the party’s state leaders feel that the public sympathy will be with Raghavendra after his father Yeddyurappa was denied a chance to continue as the Chief Minister of the state.
Interestingly, Kumar Bangarappa, the elder brother of Madhu, is a BJP legislator from their home turf of Sorab Assembly segment in the Shimoga parliamentary constituency.
In the absence of JD-S cadres across the constituency, Madhu is dependent on the Congress cadres to get voters to the polling booths in his favour, countering the well-organised cadres of the rival BJP.
With the help of the politically dominant Lingayat community, to which Yeddyurappa and Raghavendra belong, the BJP hopes to outsmart Madhu, who belongs to the backward Idiga community.
Many feel the coming together of the Congress and the JD-S will lead to the consolidation of secular, backward and minority votes against the BJP.
Only the poll verdict on May 23 will tell if Shimoga remains with the BJP or it will move to the ruling ally.