Will Sudhakar’s personal popularity save the day?

The contest centres around loyalty to local leaders rather than to parties

    K. Sudhakar, disqualified MLA, now contesting from Chickballapur for the BJP, was initially expected to have it easy, but things are looking different as the electoral race hots up.

      Dr. Sudhakar has been espousing his “development agenda” in his campaign — a government medical college and declaring Manchenahalli as a new taluk. But the election by and large seems to be “personality oriented”, as locals call it, for Dr. Sudhakar as well as Shivashankar Reddy, who is leading the Congress campaign. The contest is full of intrigue as it centres around loyalty to local leaders rather than to parties.

      Historically, it has been a constituency that has seen pitched battles between the Congress and the JD(S), and the BJP has never been a major player. However, elections are often polarised over caste or personalities, as was seen in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections when B.N. Bache Gowda, contesting on BJP ticket, polled over 60% of the popular vote in this Assembly segment, and this was attributed to Vokkaliga consolidation. Despite this, the BJP has no base in the constituency, party leaders concede. The BJP’s best performance in the Assembly polls was 3.5% vote share in 2018. Contesting for the Congress, Dr. Sudhakar won the seat twice with over 51% popular vote in 2013 and 2018, which he attributes to his “personal popularity”. He hopes he can transfer the same to the BJP.

      Congress has fielded N. Anjinappa and the JD(S) has picked N. Radhakrishna, a relative of former Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy. All three parties have fielded Vokkaligas, making the votes of Balijas and Scheduled Caste communities the key. An unhappy K.H. Muniyappa, who has recently rebelled against the Congress leadership, is expected to cost Congress dear, sources said.

      But Congress leaders sense an opportunity. “People are unhappy with Dr. Sudhakar’s political flip-flop and he is inaccessible,” a senior Congress leader from the district said. “Many within the BJP fold, including Dr. Sudhakar’s old supporters, are unhappy and are supporting us,” a local leader claimed.

      However, Congress candidate Mr. Anjinappa seems to have an image problem in comparison to the urbane Dr. Sudhakar. Also, some local manoeuvres attempted by the Congress to retain Mr. Sudhakar’s loyalists within the party by offering key posts in the zilla panchayat has only backfired.

      With Mr. Radhakrishna perceived as an outsider, and former MLA K.P. Bache Gowda being denied ticket, the party is said to have hit a bump. But contrary to this perception, the JD(S) has made the fight triangular over the last one week, a BJP leader himself conceded. “His campaign has certainly picked up. But we do not know whom the JD(S) will damage — the Congress or the BJP,” he lamented.

      What appears to be working for Dr. Sudhakar is ‘Sai Krishna Charitable Trust’ that his family established and the work done through it, said his close associate. “As an MLA, he rarely organised programmes through the party organisation, it was mostly through the Trust,” said a local BJP leader.

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      Printable version | Feb 19, 2020 3:37:25 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/will-sudhakars-personal-popularity-save-the-day/article30079583.ece

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