The bypolls to two assembly constituencies in Karnataka’s Sira and Rajarajeshwari Nagar (RR Nagar), to be held on November 3, is proving to be a headache for the ruling BJP. Factionalism and hectic internal lobbying with the Centre are already in play.
Bypolls were necessitated in RR Nagar due to disqualification of Munirathna under the anti-defection law last year and death of JD(S) legislator B Sathyanarayana in Sira in August this year.
In RR Nagar, the party has to choose between a tainted Congressman, who defected to the BJP, and a candidate who pressed corruption charges against him. Besides, it’s a power struggle between Yediyurappa and Sangh representative, B L Santhosh. The two strong leaders backing two different candidates.
While Yediyurappa supports Munirathna, one of the 17 MLAs who defected to the BJP and led to the fall of Congress-JD(S) coalition government, Santhosh is favouring Tulasi Muniraju Gowda, who filed a case of electoral malpractice against none other than Munirathna in 2018.
Munirathan had won the Assembly elections in 2018 on a Congress ticket, but since he defected to BJP in 2019 and helped the party come to power, CM Yediyurappa is backing him.
Considering that Munirathna’s nomination may dent the party’s image and its chances of winning, Santhosh, who enjoys the support of Central BJP leadership, is said to be pushing for Muniraju’s name.
In September, Munirathan and Muniraju had a bitter fight and some of the BJP workers were arrested for creating ruckus in front of Munirathna’s house. Muniraju had accused Munirathna of threatening and intimidating loyal party workers.
If the party choses Muniraju, it would certainly embarrass the Chief Minister, who’s playing his cards safe in case of an adverse situation that could threaten his CM position.
Of late, Santhosh has been calling the shots in the selection of candidates — from cabinet ministers to bypoll candidates to Rajya Sabha contestants and state representatives in the national team. Things are certainly stacked up against Yediyurappa even as his loyalists feel betrayed.
While the BJP leaders were tight-lipped about the choice of candidate, both Munirathna and Muniraju expressed confidence of getting a ticket.
Meanwhile, in Sira, a JD(S) stronghold, it’s a two-way battle between the JD(S) and Congress. BJP has little chance in Sira, unless it fields a strong candidate. One of the possible candidates from the BJP is C M Rajesh Gowda, a radiologist and son of the former Congress MP C P Mudalagiriyappa who joined the party earlier this month.
The Congress party on Wednesday announced its candidates for RR Nagar and Sira constituency. In RR Nagar, a Vokkaliga caste dominant region, the party chose Kusuma, wife of late IAS officer D K Ravi. She belongs to the Vokkaliga community and her father Hanumantharayappa was earlier with the Congress before jumping ship to JD(S).
Hanumantharayappa had unsuccessfully contested in RR nagar in 2008. Meanwhile, JD (S) is yet to decide on the candidate.
In Sira, Congress named former Minister T B Jayachandra as its candidate.
Both the seats are crucial for Congress as this is the first election under the leadership of party president D K Shivakumar. Considering that BJP is trying to make a dent in the Congress-JD(S) stronghold, he’s going all out to ensure his candidates are in a winning position.