Sira bypoll: A dusty turf battle in the dryland

Senior leader Siddaramaiah campaigning for T.B. Jayachandra, Congress candidate in the Sira bypoll.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The dry and dusty region of Sira in Tumakuru has been witnessing an interesting political battle as the traditional rivals in the Vokkaliga heartland — the Congress and the JD(S) — are sweating it out even as the BJP is trying to wrest the seat.

A mini-battle over the Vokkaliga leadership is unfolding here between JD(S) supremo H.D. Deve Gowda and Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee president D.K. Shivakumar. Meanwhile, fresh from victory at K.R. Pete in Mandya, the BJP, which has never won in Sira, is looking to repeat its feat there. The byelection here was necessitated by the death of JD(S) legislator B. Sathyanarayana.

Initial setback

The JD(S) suffered initial setbacks with many of its local leaders deserting it as the top leaders dithered on candidate selection. The party finally announced ticket for Ammajamma, the wife of the late legislator who reluctantly agreed to contest. On the other hand, the Congress announced T.B. Jayachandra as its candidate early on while the BJP candidate, Rajesh Gowda, son of former MP for Chitradurga Moodalgiriyappa, started election work even before the party announced his candidature.

While the JD(S) is banking on sympathy votes for Ammajamma, especially from women, it is also hoping that the presence of Mr. Deve Gowda will swing the community votes. People could be particularly sympathetic to Mr. Gowda, who had a rather humiliating defeat in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls in Tumakuru, party sources said.

On the other hand, the Congress is projecting the work of Mr. Jayachandra, especially those related to water, as an important issue in this water-starved constituency. The faction-ridden Tumakuru Congress has united behind the former Minister, much to his relief.

The BJP, which has deployed a large battalion of leaders, including B.Y. Vijayendra, son of Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa, has been talking of the absence of development over decades and is seeking a chance for its candidate. It looks to be a daunting task for the saffron party, which received just about 2% and 9.5% of the total votes polled in 2013 and 2018, respectively. However, the K.R. Pete experience shows that the BJP increased its vote share from just 5.6% in the 2018 elections to 39.41% in the 2019 bypolls.

In the 2008 and 2013 Assembly elections in Sira, the Congress recorded 45% and 46% of the vote share, respectively; it dropped to 36% in 2018. The JD(S) had a 41% vote share in 2018, up from about 35% in 2013. “The BJP may not be able to get such a huge swing in Sira. Mr. Deve Gowda’s active role in this election could stem those hopes. The BJP, however, is likely to improve in vote share this election,” a local leader said.

Sources in the Congress said that unlike the JD(S) and BJP, they have not been able to do as much micro-level campaigning across four hoblis, which could turn out to be an issue. “The personal touch always works well,” a Congress source said.

Caste issues

In 2018, 84.31% of the voters turned up at the polling stations. Under the gloom of the pandemic, parties are keeping fingers crossed about voter turnout. “Development works and water are important issues. However, the caste matrix and emotional appeals could make a big difference,” a leader said. All three candidates from the major parties in the fray are Kunchitiga Vokkaligas.

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Printable version | Dec 3, 2020 3:59:16 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/sira-bypoll-a-dusty-turf-battle-in-the-dryland/article32986765.ece

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