Hangal crucial for Basavaraj Bommai to consolidate his position
He is said to be wary of elements within BJP who want leadership issue to remain open
Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, whose political leadership is yet to be electorally proven, faces his first test in the Hangal bypolls in his home district Haveri. This is evident by the fact that Mr. Bommai has camped in the constituency for over a week and led the campaign from the front.
Sources said Mr. Bommai was disturbed by “intra-party intrigue” that wants him to suffer a setback “to ensure that the leadership question is still open” before the 2023 Assembly elections.
Shortly after Union Home Minister Amit Shah announced that the BJP would face the next Assembly elections under the leadership of Mr. Bommai, a defeat for the party in his home district would raise questions on the “winnability potential”, reasoned sources in the party. “Mr. Bommai seems to believe a faction is working to sabotage the party’s chances in Hangal and he seems to trust no one,” said a senior party leader. The former Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa and Haveri MP Shivakumar Udasi being reportedly upset at the candidature of Shivaraj Sajjanar has only added to the uneasiness.
The first troubling sign for Mr. Bommai came when Channabasappa R. Ballari, elder brother of BJP’s Byadgi MLA Virupakshappa Ballari, a Panchamasali Lingayat, filed his nomination from Hangal as an Independent. “Though it was couched as Panchamasali Lingayat community’s message to the BJP that they can damage their prospects if their demands for a better share of the reservation pie was not met with, it was clearly a faction within the BJP behind it,” said a senior party strategist. Mr. Bommai held talks with Mr. Channabasappa Ballari and made him withdraw his nomination. The episode in the beginning of the campaign alerted the Chief Minister to attempts of sabotage, sources said.
Mr. Bommai who was scheduled to campaign for only four days in Hangal stayed for over eight days in the constituency. He personally oversaw and micro-managed all poll-related activities — campaign and meeting local leaders and caste groups in small numbers and so on.
“In many of these meetings, Mr. Bommai made an emotional appeal to not let a person from the district down when he was the Chief Minister of the State. Countering reservations about the candidate, he asked people to consider himself as the candidate and vote,” said a senior BJP worker in Haveri. He added many local workers were not very happy at how the election management had been taken over.