The former Chief Minister and president of the Karnataka Janata Paksha (KJP) B.S. Yeddyurappa is expecting a cakewalk in his home turf from where he has won six times before.
Only once, in the Assembly elections in 1999, Mr. Yeddyurappa was humbled by Congress candidate Mahalingappa, a political novice then.
While Mr. Yeddyurappa is certainly a heavyweight, there are some factors that would worry him. For example, H.S. Shantaveerappa Gowda, an ex-MLC and Congress candidate, belongs to Sadar sect of the Lingayat community, which is locally strong. In an election where caste factor is being played up, this cannot be entirely ignored.
However, a factor in Mr Yeddyurappa’s favour is that Congress functionaries have not entirely sunk differences and rallied behind the candidate. Mr. Mahalingappa, who had defeated Mr. Yeddyurappa, Nagarada Mahadevappa and other Congress leaders in Shikaripur are unhappy with Mr. Gowda’s choice as candidate who is seen as an “outsider”. Mr. Yeddyurappa visited the houses of some of the disgruntled leaders during campaigning. BJP candidate S.H. Manjunath and BSR Congress candidate J. Phakirappa were once members of the Congress. This is further expected to split Congress votes.
In the election campaign meetings, Mr. Yeddyurappa is highlighting the series of development works initiated in Shikaripur taluk during his tenure as Deputy Chief Minister and as Chief Minister. He is also playing up the “betrayal” card. Mr. Shantaveerappa was once a close associate of Mr. Yeddyurappa and joined the Congress in 2010. Mr. Yeddyurappa was preparing ground here even before he quit the BJP. In January, he had organised a convention of women titled “Bhagyalakshmiyara samavesha” in Shikaripur.
Mr. Gowda, in his campaigns, is speaking about the failure of Mr. Yeddyurappa to confer ownership rights to bagair hukum farmers under Forest Rights Act while he was Chief Minister.
The allegations of corruption and misuse of power is also being played up in campaigns. Mr. Gowda has participated in protests by bagair hukum farmers and those who lost their land for a housing project of the Karnataka Housing Board. Holebasappa Baligar, who was a KAS officer and a follower of the late S. Bangarappa, took retirement from service to contest from Janata Dal (Secular). His campaign meetings around Shiralakoppa have attracted a good turnout.
If the recent urban local bodies (ULB) election are any indicator, KJP has little worry about.
Of the total 38 seats in Shikaripur Town Municipal Council and Shiralakoppa Town Panchayat, KJP had won 20 seats while Congress won 12.