Sira hots up as big forces descend on turf

KPCC president D.K. Shivakumar campaigning for Congress candidate T.B. Jayachandra in Sira Assembly constituency.   | Photo Credit: File photo

Once an important military outpost for the Mughals in south India, Sira in Tumakuru district is witnessing a fierce political battle in the byelection arena now. In the field are a veteran fighting to retain his party’s turf, a young and politically ambitious leader looking to send a message, and a newly anointed party chief keen to prove his mettle.

The octogenarian Janata Dal (Secular) leader, H.D. Deve Gowda, is camping in Sira to ensure the party’s victory while B.Y. Vijayendra, son of Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa, has been in the constituency for over 10 days now. Congress leaders D.K. Shivakumar and the former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, according to sources, will be seen more often in the constituency.

While the traditional rivalry between the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) in this Vokkaliga turf remains, the BJP is trying to make inroads into the Vokkaliga heartland after its victory in K.R. Pet constituency in Mandya during the bypolls in December last. With just over 10 days left for the polling on November 3, the constituency has seen heightened political activity, though the outcome has no consequence on the BJP government in the State.

JD(S) national president H.D. Deve Gowda with party candidate Ammajamma in Sira.

JD(S) national president H.D. Deve Gowda with party candidate Ammajamma in Sira.  

The entry of Mr. Gowda to the electoral fight, party sources said, comes at a “politically important juncture” for the party that is anxious about retaining its identity as a regional player, and to prevent a repeat of K.R. Pet bypoll results. The party derives its strength from Tumakuru and Mandya districts, and losses here could progressively erode the party’s base, sources said. The former Prime Minister on Thursday told the “BJP youth leader” (Mr. Vijayendra) that Sira is not K.R. Pet to take the JD(S) lightly.

“Loss in Sira could have a long-term impact on the party, which has a strong base in Tumakuru district. He does not want to let it go and see its impact in the next elections,” sources said.

Mr. Gowda has not been involved so closely in a constituency in recent years, sources said.

On the other, Mr. Vijayendra, BJP vice-president, has been working in the constituency, approaching leaders and voters at the booth level. “The BJP does not have a great base here. A victory for the BJP in Sira on the lines of K.R. Pet could send a political message since it is also not a Lingayat-dominated constituency. It will help build the young leader an image outside Lingayat politics,” sources said. Mr. Vijayendra’s presence, however, has been marked by Opposition’s allegations of distribution of money to woo voters, a charge he has dismissed as stemming from “frustration”.

For KPCC president Mr. Shivakumar, who is being seen in a covert struggle for Vokkaliga leadership with JD(S) leaders, the bypoll in the Vokkaliga heartland is an opportunity to prove his capacity. It is also his first electoral outing after taking over as chief of the State party unit. Sources close to him said a victory in Sira and R.R. Nagar, both with sizeable Vokkaliga population, could attract more Vokkaliga leaders from the JD(S) to the Congress fold.

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Printable version | Nov 29, 2020 11:45:37 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/sira-hots-up-as-big-forces-descend-on-turf/article32922758.ece

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