S. Rajendran

Stiff challenge for Yeddyurappa in the face of ‘understanding’ among three

Congress, JD(S), Samajwadi Party have ‘come together’?

This arrangement follows feedback received after campaigning started

BANGALORE: Though not being stated in clear terms, the Congress, the Janata Dal (Secular) and the Samajwadi Party are gradually coming closer to fight what could be termed a common enemy — the Bharatiya Janata Party — in the Assembly elections in the State.

In the run-up to the elections, the Congress and the Samajwadi Party tried to forge an electoral understanding in vain.

Thereafter, discussions were also stated to have been held between the Samajwadi Party and the Janata Dal (Secular) president, H.D. Deve Gowda, which again did not fructify.

The three parties have now reportedly entered into an informal understanding in certain pockets given the nature of the feedback that they [parties] have been receiving after the election campaign commenced. Four former Chief Ministers — S. Bangarappa, H.D. Kumaraswamy, N. Dharam Singh and B.S. Yeddyurappa, are in the fray and it is only Mr. Yeddyurappa who faces a stiff challenge given the political status of their opponents.

While Mr. Yeddyurappa faces a formidable rival in Mr. Bangarappa apart from a greenhorn in N. Navalesh (who is a Veerashaiva like Mr. Yeddyurappa), Mr. Kumaraswamy faces a political novice in Mamta Nichani.

Mr. Dharam Singh is expected to face Doddappa Gowda Patil of the BJP in the third phase of the elections to be held on May 22. The BJP candidate is the son of the late Shivalingappa who was repeatedly unsuccessful against Mr. Dharam Singh in the Jewargi Assembly constituency of Gulbarga district.

The other chief Ministerial candidate in the Congress, M. Mallikarjun Kharge, who is contesting for the first time from Chitapur constituency (a new constituency reserved for Scheduled Castes after the delimitation exercise), is expected to face Valmiki Naik of the BJP and the battle in all certainty will be one-sided given Mr. Kharge’s popularity.

Both Mr. Dharam Singh and Mr. Kharge have successfully won eight Assembly elections in a row. Mr. Bangarappa has an even more impressive record having won seven Assembly elections since 1967 and five Lok Sabha elections irrespective of the political party from which he has contested.

He has represented the following parties: Samyukta Socialist Party, Karnataka Congress Party, Congress, Janata Party and the Samajwadi Party.

He has lost once to Kagodu Thimmappa in the Sagar Assembly constituency and another time to Ayanur Manjunath in the Shimoga Lok Sabha constituency.

The common feeling is that Mr. Bangarappa has filed his nomination papers before the returning officer of the Shikaripur constituency of Shimoga district following the support extended to him by other political parties only to ensure that there is a direct contest between him and Mr. Yeddyurappa.

In a way, the stage is set for a challenge between Mr. Yeddyurappa on the one side and secular forces on the other.

It is thus a major electoral battle for Mr. Yeddyurappa who has repeatedly contested from Shikaripur since 1983 and has lost only once in 1999. In other words, secular parties have come together to prevent a victory for Mr. Yeddyurappa. Mr. Deve Gowda told The Hindu that the Janata Dal (S) will extend support to Mr. Bangarappa who is a friend of the party.

With filing of nomination papers to the second phase of elections drawing to a close on Tuesday, the stage is set for a royal electoral battle at Shikaripur. Exuding confidence, Mr. Yeddyurappa has said he will campaign only in the last few days in his constituency.