Lok Sabha Election

Will BJP’s new face pull the rug from under veteran Muniyappa in Kolar?

Going by conventional wisdom and the arithmetic of the coalition, K.H. Muniyappa, seven-time MP, who is pitted against a new face from the BJP, should have an easy ride to victory. But it does not seem to be the case, making the elections in the district something to watch out for.

A 28-year tenure as MP seems to have triggered a strong wave of anti-incumbency against Mr. Muniyappa. “What has he done?” is a common refrain of the voters. “He has been an MP for nearly three decades and we are fed up,” said Ramachandrayya, a farmer from Kolar.

Perhaps sensing the discontent, Mr. Muniyappa has organised several LCD screen-mounted vehicles to tour the constituency and publicise his work. “I have been elected seven times and anti-incumbency is natural. I have faced similar waves earlier too, but have managed to win. This time will be no different,” he told The Hindu, while campaigning in Shidlaghatta on Monday.

But what has compounded his problems is the rebellion of ruling coalition MLAs. A group of Congress MLAs had lobbied hard with the Congress high command against giving ticket to Mr. Muniyappa. “Muniyappa hardly has any MLAs working for him, except his daughter Roopa Shashidhar and another MLA,” said a Congress leader. Mr. Muniyappa has built alliances with runner-up candidates in most of these seats — Venkatashiva Reddy and Varthur Prakash — for instance, to counter this.

“MLAs will eventually come together to work for the party,” Mr. Muniyappa re-affirmed. Proving that, on Monday, he was seen campaigning with Shidlaghatta MLA V. Muniyappa, who had lobbied against him with the party high command.

The BJP seems to have emerged as a default beneficiary of the anti-incumbency. It has fielded a Bengaluru councillor, S. Muniswamy, against the veteran Dalit leader.

A farmer and businessman hailing from Tekal village, this is the first time he is dabbling in district politics. Though the voters don’t seem to be aware of the BJP candidate, he may end up reaping the benefits for the lack of a JD(S) candidate in the fray, who could have taken the anti-incumbency vote. In the 2014 LS polls, the JD(S) got 32.9% of votes polled and was the runner-up. Without a JD(S) candidate, the critical Vokkaliga votes may transfer to the BJP rather than the Congress. “How can we vote Congress, the party we have fought all these years?” said a Vokkaliga farmer in Bangarapet, who did not wish to be named. The BJP has roped in senior leader R. Ashok to campaign and capitalise on this.

Sources in the BJP claimed it was a section of the Congress and JD(S) MLAs who unanimously suggested the name of S. Muniswamy, assuring the saffron party their support. This indicates how despite the party not having a single MLA in the constituency, it’s hopeful of winning the seat. Only H. Nagesh, Independent MLA from Mulabagal, has been openly working for the BJP. “Muniyappa has done no work and I have the backing of [PM] Narendra Modi which will ensure I will win and emerge a giant killer,” said Mr. Muniswamy.

But local leaders are not ready to write off Mr. Muniyappa just yet. “Yes, he is facing anti-incumbency. But this is nothing new. Muniyappa is very rooted and has an iron grip on local politics, which may still swing the outcome in the last two days,” said N. Venkatesh, a prominent Dalit activist of the district.

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Printable version | May 11, 2021 1:41:07 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/lok-sabha-2019/will-bjps-new-face-pull-the-rug-from-under-veteran-muniyappa-in-kolar/article26858776.ece

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