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National - Elections 2004 Printer Friendly Page   Send this Article to a Friend

Bangarappa vs Bangarappa

Pramod Mellegatti


The winds of change are blowing through Sorab in Shimoga district of Karnataka. An anti-Bangarappa wave is discernible for the first time since 1967 when Sarekoppa Bangarappa made his entry into electoral politics from this Assembly constituency. Sorab, one of the most backward constituencies in Shimoga district, is dominated by the backward Deevaru community to which Mr. Bangarappa belongs. It has remained loyal to Mr. Bangarappa over the years, even while he was hopping from party to party.

Mr. Bangarappa's son, S. Kumar Bangarappa, has represented Sorab in the Vidhan Soudha over two terms. But Mr. Kumar Bangarappa's strained relationship with his father over the last couple of years — which is said to have reached the "point of no return" — has had a direct bearing on the electoral scene in the constituency.

When the former Chief Minister sprang a surprise by joining the BJP to contest the Lok Sabha election from the Shimoga constituency as its candidate, Mr. Kumar Bangarappa, who was then a Minister of State in the Krishna Government, followed suit by announcing his resignation from the ministership as well as the Congress party.

But Mr. Kumar Bangarappa was left in the lurch when his younger brother, Madhu Bangarappa, was nominated as the BJP's candidate from the Sorab Assembly constituency, apparently at the instigation of his father.

Left with little choice, Mr. Kumar Bangarappa accepted the offer made by the Congress leaders to rejoin the party; they wanted to "teach" Mr. Bangarappa a lesson for having ditched the party. Mr. Kumar Bangarappa readily agreed to contest against his younger brother.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bangarappa, who is projecting Mr. Madhu Bangarappa as his "heir apparent" is not leaving anything to chance. He has taken up campaigning more seriously than ever before. He has been campaigning door-to-door along with his younger son and does not appear to have any compunction in bringing the family feud out into the open. Mr. Bangarappa is banking on the sympathy of the voters over what he calls the "ill treatment" meted out to him by his elder son.

Mr. Kumar Bangarappa, who was initially caught on the backfoot, has now taken the offensive. But he says he does not want to create any ill-will in the family. "I do not want to cross the limits of decency while approaching the people for votes. I seek votes on the basis of my performance as a legislator for two terms," he says.

Mr. Madhu Bangarappa is a novice in electoral politics. Mr. Bangarappa's younger son, who runs his own song-recording studio in Bangalore, has to rely on the popularity of his father to win the election. He is handicapped by the fact that he has had little experience of politics, and also because the BJP is anathema to most voters in the constituency.

The Chief Minister, S.M. Krishna, who makes no bones about the fact that he wants to see the senior Bangarappa defeated on his "home turf," had a word of appreciation for Mr. Kumar Bangarappa for mobilising an impressive crowd at a public meeting addressed by him at Anavatti saying, "I never knew that Kumar has grown so much in stature".

Mr. Kumar Bangarappa's low-key campaign style did cause problems initially, with local Congressmen complaining that he was ignoring the party's Lok Sabha candidate for the Shimoga seat, Ayanur Manjunath, while canvassing votes. They alleged that he was tacitly supporting his father. Though Mr. Kumar Bangarappa denied the allegations, KPCC president B. Janardhan Poojary had to intervene to sort things out.

Mr. Kumar Bangarappa received a shot in the arm when J. Shivandappa, a close associate of the Bangarappa family, joined the bandwagon after staying away from the campaign as a protest against the ticket having been denied to him.

Though there are nine candidates in the fray, it is going to be a straight fight between the Bangarappa brothers. As things stand, the race is too close to call. There are 1,34,166 voters in the constituency of whom 68,642 are men and 65,524 women. The Deevaru, traditionally toddy tappers, form the single largest community in the constituency accounting for nearly 30 per cent of voters.

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