It appears like dissidence and the arithmetic of caste politics that will eventually decide the winner in the Mandya Lok Sabha byelection on August 21.
Actor Ramya from the Congress and former MLA C.S. Puttaraju from the Janata Dal (Secular) are the dominant contenders for the seat. Mr. Puttaraju, twice elected from the Melkote Assembly constituency, lost against K.S. Puttannaiah in the last elections. This is Ms. Ramya’s maiden entry as a candidate for a Lok Sabha seat. There are altogether nine candidates in the fray.
The byelection has been necessitated as Nagamangala MLA N. Cheluvaraya Swamy vacated the seat to contest the Assembly elections.
Since the two main contenders are from the Vokkaliga caste, the voting pattern of the other backward classes (OBCs), Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and the minorities will play a big role in deciding the winner.
Vokkaligas comprise about 38 per cent of the voters here according to an estimate, while the SCs and STs form 18-20 per cent. Then, there are Kurubas, Veerashaivas and the minorities in fairly large numbers.
The Janata Dal(S) has four MLAs in the Lok Sabha constituency, but it is unlikely to have an easy run here. Among other things, the remarks of the former MLA M. Srinivas against Ms. Ramya may adversely affect the Janata Dal(S). Also, the Janata Dal(S) has received a setback with the former Speaker Krishna and the former MLA Kalpana Siddaraju joining the Congress. The party is also facing a rebellion of sorts in Nagamangala and K.R. Pet.
On the positive side, the Karnataka Janata Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party are supporting the Janata Dal(S). The party is hoping to get a boost in Maddur, parts of Nagamangala and Melkote constituencies.
Ms. Ramya too has her own share of problems. The Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee is finding it difficult to resolve dissidence in Mandya and Srirangapatna Assembly constituencies. Party leaders accuse Housing Minister M.H. Ambareesh of ignoring local leaders associated with the former External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and district party chief M.S. Atmananda.
On the positive side, the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha workers are campaigning for Ms. Ramya as they are miffed with Mr. Puttaraju who they allege is involved in stone quarrying activities near Krishnaraja Sagar reservoir.
The Congress is hoping to get a clear majority in Malavalli, K.R. Pet, Srirangapatna and parts of Nagamangala and Maddur Assembly segments where most voters belong to OBCs, SCs and STs and minority categories.
It is also banking on the Melkote segment as MLA K.S. Puttannaiah is supporting Ms. Ramya.
The actor-turned-politician also hopes to consolidate youngsters and women voters in the constituency in her favour.