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Aggressive campaigning by all parties for Shimoga byelection

Pramod Mellegatti

Parties attempting to discern voting pattern based on caste, community figures


  • Byelection scheduled for Thursday
  • It is more of a triangular fight among the Congress, the BJP and the Samajwadi Party
  • No party has made development of the constituency an issue

    SHIMOGA: With polling in the Shimoga Lok Sabha byelection scheduled for Thursday, the contesting parties have begun caste- and community-based calculations to discern the voting pattern.

    Though it looks like a four-cornered contest, it is more of a triangular fight among the Congress, the BJP and the Samajwadi Party although the Janata Dal (S) is struggling hard to remain in the race. The electioneering has been so aggressive that it is difficult to hazard a guess on the outcome of the election.

    A matter of prestige

    The four major parties in the fray consider the outcome as a matter of prestige. It is particularly more so with the Congress as it considers the Shimoga constituency as its fortress. Out of the 14 Lok Sabha elections held in the constituency so far, it has lost only three times.

    Though the Congress and the BJP say that it is a straight fight between them, they cannot wish away the Samajwadi Party, which is well entrenched in the constituency because of the charisma of its candidate, S. Bangarappa.

    While Mr. Bangarappa is trying to revive the Socialist (Samajwadi) Party, which was launched in Shimoga district in the early Fifties, the Congress has termed his politics opportunistic and the BJP is sparing no efforts to retain the seat.

    What is significant in this byelection is that Mr. Bangarappa is the common target of the three major parties. They have branded him as a "defector" and "opportunist" and are urging the voters to teach him a proper lesson for his party hopping habit. This concerted attack may become counter-productive if Mr. Bangarappa begins to earn the sympathy of the voters.

    The fact that Mr. Bangarappa has contested the last four Lok Sabha elections on different party labels points to his political inconsistency. This election too is no exception.

    While he entered the Lok Sabha for the first time after winning the 1996 election as the Karnataka Congress Party candidate, he lost in 1998 as the candidate of the Karnataka Vikas Party. He won the next two elections in 1999 and 2004 as the Congress and the BJP candidate respectively.

    Rivals

    In the last four Lok Sabha elections held since 1996, Mr. Bangarappa's main rival has been Ayanur Manjunath, who too has not escaped the criticism of being a defector.

    Mr. Manjunath unsuccessfully contested as the BJP candidate in 1996 but emerged as the winner against Mr. Bangarappa in the 1998 election. He lost to Mr. Bangarappa in 1999.

    After contesting unsuccessfully against Mr. Bangarappa as the Congress candidate in the 2004 election, he is now pitted against him once again.

    Eight Assembly segments

    The Shimoga Lok Sabha constituency consists of eight Assembly segments covering parts of Nalluru and Ubrani hoblis of Channagiri taluk in Davangere district. It has 12.86 lakh voters, of whom Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes account for 2.2 lakhs; Lingayats, two lakhs; Deevaru, a backward class community traditionally engaged in toddy tapping to which Mr. Bangarappa belongs, 1.8 lakh; Muslims, 1.6 lakh; and Brahmins and Vokkaligas, 1.25 lakh each. Mr. Manjunath may get an edge over the others if he is assured of the support of the Lingayats in addition to that of the minorities, who are considered as traditional supporters of the Congress.

    Mr. Bangarappa, apart from mobilising support from his Deevaru and other backward communities, is banking on the Muslims, many of whom regard him as a champion of their cause.

    M.B. Bhanu Prakash of the BJP is banking on the systematic campaign being spearheaded by the dedicated workers of the Sangh Parivar and the intense campaign by the senior party leaders Narendra Modi, Sushma Swaraj and M. Venkaiah Naidu.

    However the BJP's prospects may be affected marginally as Mr. Bhanu Prakash, a Brahmin, is pitted against another Brahmin candidate, L.T. Thimmappa Hegde, of the Janata Dal (S). It remains to be seen as to who will benefit from the division of the Brahmin vote.

    Mr. Hegde, apart from the canvassing by party workers led by the senior leaders H.D. Deve Gowda and Siddaramaiah, is seeking votes on the strength of his contribution to the cooperative sector.

    None of the major parties has made development of the constituency an issue.

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