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The old warhorse does it again

Pramod Mellegatti

`Defector campaign' launched by Bangarappa's opponents boomerangs on them

SHIMOGA: With his comfortable win in the Shimoga Lok Sabha byelection, Sarekoppa Bangarappa has showed that he is not a spent force.

With his victory, Mr. Bangarappa, former Chief Minister and President of the State unit of the Samajwadi Party, has silenced his detractors who made his defections as the main issue in the byelection.

It looks like the defection issue was not taken seriously by the voters despite the high-voltage campaigning by the Congress and BJP.

The former Chief Minister strained every nerve to win the election in what was a "do or die" situation for him.

He proved wrong the calculations of the Congress and BJP who sought to humble him by projecting him as a "defector" and an "opportunist."

They had only one point in condemning Mr. Bangarappa as a defector. But they over did it to such an extent that it proved counter productive for them with Mr. Bangarappa gaining the sympathy of voters for the attacks on him.

Lessons for parties

The outcome of the election holds some lessons for the Congress and the BJP.

Their leaders urged the electorate to "teach" Mr. Bangarappa a lesson for his party-hopping habit conveniently forgetting that they too encouraged defections.

It was no secret that both these parties were quite jubilant when Ayanur Manjunath and Mr. Bangarappa deserted the Janata Party and the Congress respectively on the eve of the 2004 election.

When asked how his party justified the entry of Mr. Bangarappa into his party, the BJP General Secretary, H.N. Ananth Kumar, said during the campaigning that Mr. Bangarappa joining the BJP could not be interpreted as a defection as it was part of the political polarisation. "But Mr. Bangarappa quitting the BJP and joining the Samajwadi Party was a defection," he said.

Socialism

The importance the President of the Samajwadi Party and the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Mulayam Singh Yadav, attached to the byelection could be judged from his statements that "socialism," which attained new heights through the Kagodu Satyagraha, could be revived if his party gained a foothold in the State through Mr. Bangarappa's win in the election.

Mr. Bangarappa's first move is to consolidate his party for the zilla and taluk panchayat elections which are around the corner.

The byelection had become equally prestigious for the Congress which had launched an aggressive campaign.

The fact that the Chief Minister, N. Dharam Singh, and the President of the KPCC, B. Janardhana Poojary, camped here for over a week along with ministers pointed to the importance they had given to their one point programme to defeat Mr. Bangarappa.

The BJP and the Janata Dal (S) too tried hard to win the seat with State and national leaders campaigning for their candidates.

The Congress leaders' campaign did not seem to have percolated to the interior parts. Most of them made it a point to address press conferences only to assert that their candidate would win comfortably.

BJP's drubbing

The BJP's drubbing has become too hard for it to bear as it did not register lead in any of the eight Assembly segments, including Tirthahalli, Holehonnu, Shimoga and Shikaripur where its partymen are MLAs.

The only consoling factor for the Janata Dal (S) is its vastly improved support base in the constituency thanks to the campaign led by its President, H.D. Deve Gowda.

Its candidate polled 21,000 votes in the 2004 Lok Sabha election, but this time it rose to 54,578.

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