Old rivals to battle it out in Shimoga Assembly segment

SHIMOGA, APRIL 24. The election to the Shimoga Assembly Constituency is once again a straight fight between the General Secretary of the BJP State unit, K.S. Eshwarappa, and H.M. Chandrasekharappa of the Congress, and the former is going all out to avenge his defeat at the hands of the latter in the 1999 election.

Eyebrows were raised when Mr. Eshwarappa was defeated by a lesser known Mr. Chandrasekharappa by a slender margin. This was attributed to the popularity of the former Chief Minister, S. Bangarappa, who, along with his facile victory in the Shimoga Lok Sabha Constituency as the Congress candidate brought about many upsets in the Assembly elections in the district which were held simultaneously.

While Mr. Chandrasekharappa's performance as the local legislator left much to be desired, Mr. Eshwarappa kept a low profile in public life for some time after his defeat and till he was made Chairman of the Central Silk Board. He suffered one more setback when he was defeated in the byelection from the Kanakapura Lok Sabha Constituency where the former Prime Minister, H.D. Deve Gowda, was elected. Mr. Eshwarappa, who is closely associated with several cultural organisations, founded his own cultural outfit, Sri Gandha, which has endeared him to various sections of society. His easy access to the people seems to have brightened his winning prospects. Mr. Eshwarappa, who belongs to the Kuruba community, relies heavily on the backward class votes in addition to the support of the major communities who are identified as traditional supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party. But the call given by the Brahmins' Association to its members not to allow themselves to be dubbed "blind'' supporters of the BJP is said to have caused anxiety for Mr. Eshwarappa.

Another interesting development is the recent meeting of the heads of the Lingayat maths in Shikaripur taluk where they were reported to have expressed their displeasure at the "lack of representation" to the community in various spheres. It remains to be seen whether it will have an adverse impact on the BJP.

With Brahmins being divided on the issue, the prospects of Mr. Eshwarappa and Mr. Chandrasekharappa are likely to be decided by how many Brahmin votes the Janata Party candidate and Vishwa Hindu Parishad activist, K.S. Anantha Ramaiah, a Brahmin, would poll.

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