Chickballapur Lok Sabha constituency: Congress fights to wrest its stronghold, BJP to retain gain it made last election

April 22, 2024 08:32 pm | Updated April 23, 2024 02:46 pm IST - Bengaluru

Raksha Ramaiah

Raksha Ramaiah | Photo Credit: The Hindu

The Congress should have had it easy in the Chickballapur Lok Sabha seat this time, considering incumbent BJP MP B.N. Bache Gowda exited the political scene even as two members of his family are MLAs with the Congress in the constituency. Also, this is a constituency which the Congress has never lost except in 1996 and 2019.

However, the candidature of former Health Minister K. Sudhakar from the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s campaign here recently seems to have made the contest a close one. The Congress has fielded Raksha Ramaiah, from the influential M.S. Ramaiah family which has a bunch of educational institutions and hospitals and has had a close relationship with the district.

The Lok Sabha elections in the constituency have always seen a fight between candidates from the Other Backward Communities (OBCs) and Vokkaligas, both communities in significant numbers here. While the Congress candidate is from the OBC category, the BJP candidate is a Vokkaliga. Chickballapur has elected an OBC candidate from 1996 to 2014. Mr. Bache Gowda won the seat in 2019 for the first time for the BJP. 

What candidates say

Dr. Sudhakar, who made his debut as an MLA from Chickballapur seat in 2013 from the Congress, won it back in 2018, but defected to the BJP in 2019 and won the bypolls. As Health Minister, he was the face of the State government during the pandemic, winning both bouquets and brickbats. The Congress has been alleging large-scale corruption in pandemic management, one of the poll planks of the Congress this election. He lost the Assembly polls in 2023 and is now playing the sympathy card this election.

His candidature was intensely opposed by Yelahanka BJP MLA S.R. Vishwanath, who lobbied hard for his son to get the ticket. Mr. Vishwanath seems to have come around now, though many say dissidence continues. 

Speaking to The Hindu, Dr. Sudhakar said INDIA alliance does not have a formidable leader and the Congress candidate has not been able to create any hope among the people. “Whatever the allegations that the Congress leaders are making against me is out of sheer desperation and fear of losing,” he said.

Dr. K. Sudhakar, the BJP candidate from Chickballapur

Dr. K. Sudhakar, the BJP candidate from Chickballapur | Photo Credit: MURALI KUMAR K

On the other hand, Mr. Raksha said the “Modi factor” played a role in a few urban pockets, which they were trying to counter, but was confident that the rural voters were firmly with the Congress. “The guarantee schemes of the State government have brought in real change in the lives of the people,” he said. He added that the Congress organisation was robust in the constituency, unlike the BJP which he said was running a “one-man show.”

Of the eight Assembly segments in the constituency, the Congress has five MLAs and the support of one Independent, and BJP has two MLAs, of which one was an aspirant himself and a dissident. 

“The BJP candidate was rejected by the people in the Assembly elections. He is now solely banking on Mr. Modi and caste politics. The Congress is a party of all communities,” Mr. Ramaiah said, adding while Mr. Sudhakar was trying to mobilise Vokkaligas in his favour, many in the community were upset with him. 

Irrigation woes

As the contest between the Congress and the BJP hots up, Anjaneya Reddy, activist who has been fighting to bring irrigation to the parched district for decades, said that both national parties have “betrayed” the district on this count. “The Yettinahole project that was supposed to bring water to our district is stuck. Veerappa Moily won two elections on that promise. The Congress wears the KC Valley and HN Valley projects that bring treated sewage water from Bengaluru to our lakes as a feather in its cap, but the water table is polluted and there are several issues with the project. The BJP is suddenly talking of irrigation to the district. But their track record while in power both in the State and the Centre has been as bad,” he lamented. 

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