In Bellary, there is a keen tussle between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress. The poll fight is so fierce that it could be “anybody’s game”.
While the BJP is making an all-out effort to get a hat-trick, the Congress is leaving no stone unturned to regain its lost citadel.
The Bellary parliamentary constituency, after delimitation, has been reserved for Scheduled Tribes. The voters favoured the Congress till 1999, when Sonia Gandhi, AICC president, won, defeating BJP’s firebrand leader Sushma Swaraj. But from 2004 elections, the BJP succeeded in clinching the seat, mainly due to the annual visits of Ms. Swaraj to Bellary and efforts put in by the Reddy brothers, including B. Sriramulu. The Reddy brothers’ hold on the district continued even in the 2009 elections, although their candidate, J. Shanta, sister of Mr. Sriramulu, scraped through with a narrow margin of 2,243 votes, defeating Congress candidate N.Y. Hanumanthappa.
Mr. Hanumanthappa, former Chief Justice of Orissa High Court, and former MP from Chitradurga (2004-2009), is seeking re-election. Mr. Hanumanthappa, originally from neighbouring Chitradurga, has been making his presence felt only during the elections, while Mr. Sriramulu, a close associate of jailed mining baron G. Janardhan Reddy, is a local man and has been instrumental in building the BJP, besides retaining his hold on the constituency.
However, with the Congress’s base in the district remaining intact, winning three of the eight Assembly segments in 2013, and the party coming back to power in the State, Mr. Hanumanthappa, along with other Congress leaders, have been going around the constituency with the hope of emerging successful this time.
Mr. Sriramulu, who later floated the BSR Congress, also emerged victorious by securing as much as 2.22 lakh votes and retaining two seats in the district, indicating that the BJP is not a force to reckon with in the district without him.
Despite having an edge, going by the vote share, he and the BJP enjoys, Mr. Sriramulu appears to be weary. He has been forced to fight a lone battle, with his close friend Mr. Janardhan Reddy in jail on charges of illegal mining, and G. Somashekar Reddy, elder brother of Mr. Janardhan having moved away from active politics. His recent merger wit the BJP is making him worry as he is not sure to what extent it would affect his poll prospects. Yet, putting up a brave face and determined to win the election, he has been relentlessly touring the constituency, spending two days in each Assembly segment, taking it as a prestige issue, as his political future is at stake.
Meanwhile, the JD(S), whose base was eroded by the BJP, has fielded a new face, R. Ravi Nayak from Mysore, who is not considered a force. Journalist-turned politician Shivakumar Malagi is contesting on the Aam Aadmi ticket. In all, there are 12 candidates.