A fierce battle between friends-turned-foes is in the offing during the forthcoming byelection to the Bellary (Rural) Assembly Constituency. The contenders are the Bharatiya Janata Praty and the Reddy brothers of Bellary, with their nominee B. Sriramulu contesting as an Independent.
For Sriramulu and the Reddy brothers, the bypoll is a battle for their political survival in the district and to retain their image in the State. They also want to teach the BJP a lesson that they are needed for BJP's existence in the district and not vice-versa.
Even for the BJP, the stakes are very high. It has to prove that it can survive without the Reddy brothers. During the campaigning, the party pulled in its senior leaders and the entire Cabinet led by Chief Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda. However, it is becoming increasingly clear to them that they have no local cadre to work for the party at the grassroot level primarily because of their excessive dependence on the Reddy brothers in Bellary.
The Reddy brothers emerged as a force to reckon with in the district after the Assembly elections in 1999, and became a power centre — politically and monetarily — in the district in less than five years, ruling the roost for ten years.
However, the BJP is hoping to cash in on the anti-wave blowing against the Reddy brothers, following their indictment in the Lokayukta report on illegal mining. Another point working for them is the disunity in the Reddy brothers' camp, with the former Minister G. Karunakara Reddy not participating in the election campaign.
The charisma of the Reddy brothers, particularly that of Mr. Sriramulu, has taken a beating after their indictment in the Lokyakuta report, followed by the arrest of G. Janardhan Reddy, considered as the ‘main strategist' by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). As such, Mr. Sriramulu has been fighting a lone battle. He is now depending on the support and backing of four legislators and two MPs (who have been suspended by the party for supporting him) and the elected representatives of the zilla, taluk and gram panchayats in addition to the eight out of nine corporators representing as many wards in Cowl Bazaar in the Bellary city. Though the Congress has no stake in this byelection, it has fielded its candidate to take political advantage of the vertical divide between the BJP and the Reddy brothers. Congress leaders are confident of scoring a victory in the byelection.
Inch by inch
The calculation of the Congress appears to be with sound reasoning. While earlier, the political rivalry was between the Congress and Janata Dal (S) in the district, now it is between the Congress and the BJP, with the base of the Congress remaining almost intact and the party leaders concentrating on getting a little more of the vote-share. Polling will be held on November 30 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., when over 1.72 lakh voters are expected to exercise their franchise.