In an intriguing development in the run-up to the Karnataka Assembly elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has decided to pit Bellary MP B Sriramulu against Chief Minister Siddaramaiah at Badami in north Karnataka.
The BJP’s decision comes after Siddaramaiah announced that he will be contesting from a second seat in Badami, along with Chamundeshwari. Sriramulu filed his nomination papers on Tuesday, 24 April.
It is believed that Siddaramaiah – who is up for a tough fight in Chamundeshwari, which has traditionally been a Janata Dal (Secular) (JD(S)) stronghold – wanted a ‘safe’ seat as a backup. According to reports, the Congress managed to persuade their sitting MLA from Badami, BB Chimmanakatti, to give up his seat by promising him an MLC seat.
However, with the BJP putting Sriramulu’s name in the ring, the chief minister has been forced into another big ticket battle.
Reports say that in Badami, which has a voter base of 2.5 lakh people, 55,000 are from the CM’s own Kuruba community. Another 46,000 are from other SC/ST communities, and 25,000 are Muslims. Sriramulu, a close associate of the Bellary Reddy brothers, is known to be highly influential with Scheduled Tribe voters. For this, he had already secured a ticket from Molakalmuru, Chitradurga bordering Bellary district, known to have a high ST population.
The BJP is also hoping that the JD(S) candidate Hanumant Mavinamarad – a Lingayat – will eat into the Congress vote bank. The Congress too is strangely hoping for the same, and believes that the CM will get votes from other communities and some from the Lingayats too.
Meanwhile in Chamundeshwari, the buzz is that Siddaramaiah’s fate will be decided by a narrow margin – especially considering he is going head to head against veteran politician and sitting MLA GT Devegowda – a former aide of his.
Siddaramaiah has won from Chamundeshwari five times since 1983. However, the last time he contested – and won – from Chamundeshwari, in a bye-election in 2006, it was a tough battle. The CM had just quit the JD(S) and joined the Congress, miffed at being sidelined for Kumaraswamy. He defeated the JD(S)-BJP combine by a margin of just 257 votes.
However, since then, he has contested from neighbouring Varuna constituency twice, and won both times.
This year, however, the chief minister decided to leave the ‘safe’ constituency for his son, Yathindra – who is making his electoral debut.
(This article was first published in The News Minute, and has been republished here with permission.)
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