The voters in the district are politically divided between Congress and BJP

Bellary, associated infamously with large-scale illegal mining and having earned the name ‘Republic of Bellary’, is now readying itself to go to polls without the hangover of mining.

The mining clout, which was overtly visible in the previous elections, with money power calling the shots, is conspicuous by its absence in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections. The Bellary LS constituency is reserved for Scheduled Tribes.

Over 50 mining leases, which were placed under Category ‘C’ for indulging in rampant illegal mining activities, have been cancelled as per the directions of the Supreme Court, and most of the mines in Category ‘A’ and ‘B’ are yet to resume operations. With the strict enforcement of rule of law, the illegal mining era has almost come to an end.

Rampant unchecked illegal mining had adversely impacted the environment, ecology and forest cover, making the life of the people miserable. None of these issues figured in the manifestos of parties in previous elections.

Even now the district lacks proper infrastructure facilities.

There are no trains connecting the region to Chennai, Mumbai and other major cities. There is shortage of water for irrigation owing to accumulation of silt in the Tungabhadra dam. Kharif crops suffered in the rain-fed areas and the resettlement and rehabilitation plan in the villages severely affected by mining is still to be implemented.

Under the changed political scenario, with G. Janardhan Reddy and three MLAs — B.S. Anand Singh of the BJP representing Vijayanagar, T.H. Suresh Babu, nephew of B. Sriramulu representing Kampli, and B. Nagendra, a close associate of Mr. Sriramulu representing Kudligi — in jail on charges of illegal mining and transport of iron ore through Belekeri port, Mr. Sriramulu is contesting on BJP ticket.

Mr. Sriramulu is facing N.Y. Hanumanthappa, former Congress MP, who had lost the previous election by a narrow margin of 2,243 votes to J. Shantha, sister of Mr. Sriramulu.

The voters in the district are politically divided between the Congress and the BJP. The BJP, under the stewardship of the Reddy brothers, had won seven of the eight Assembly segments in 2008, and had managed to scrape through in the previous Lok Sabha elections.

Mr. Janardhan Reddy’s stand on constructing a new airport on fertile irrigated land and his decision to put an end to ‘digging’ (removing float ore from the agricultural lands) were among other reasons for the BJP’s popularity dipping.

In the 2013 Assembly elections, owing to the split, the BJP could retain only one seat, while Congress wrested four seats.

The Janata Dal (Secular), whose base began to erode after 2008, has fielded Ravikumar Naik, an outsider, while the Aam Admi Party has fielded Shivakumar Malagi, a journalist-turned-politician.

A few Independents are also in the fray.

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