Will Bellary, once Sonia’s bastion, turn Congress fortunes around?
Bellary has played a role in regional politics since the days of the Vijayanagara Empire. In recent decades, Bellary has always been a Congress bastion. But the BJP started making inroads into the “land of mines” in 1999.
Sonia Gandhi fought elections from Amethi and Bellary in 1999 to enter electoral politics and won both seats. But it paved the way for BJP, too, when the then Delhi Chief Minister, Sushma Swaraj, fought against Sonia but was defeated.
However, Swaraj helped Bellary become a BJP base as the Reddy brothers (Gali Janardhana Reddy, Gali Karunakara Reddy, Gali Somashekhar Reddy) and their bestie Sriramulu grew to play big politics in BJP. Even with Swaraj’s defeat and Sonia leaving the constituency to contest only from Amethi, Bellary attracted national attention.
Caught in mining scams
However, the city built during the Vijayanagara empire started becoming a negative example of mining scams, which was blamed on the Reddy brothers. Though many regional leaders of both Congress and BJP are known to be mining barons, the Reddy brothers were charged in mining scam cases, sending Janardhana Reddy, then a minister, to jail in 2011. He has been in and out of prison since then.
Janardhana even challenged Opposition leader Siddaramaiah to “enter” Bellary in 2013—and the latter accepted. It made Siddaramaiah conduct a “padayatra” from Bengaluru to Bellary, bringing down the ruling BJP and making it easy for Congress to regain power in 2013.
Now, in the recent Karnataka politics, Bellary seems to be playing a major role again, with Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra taking a small halt in the town for a massive rally. With Karnataka facing elections in six months or so, Rahul’s mega rally in Bellary seems to be playing a major role in the party’s fight against the ruling BJP.
The anti-incumbency factor
First, Siddaramotsava, the birthday bash for the Congress’s mass leader Siddaramaiah, proved a strong base for the party in Karnataka. Next, the party’s “Freedom March” in Bengaluru to commemorate 75 years of Independence and the Bharat Jodo Yatra through Karnataka are also helping it make a huge splash ahead of the elections. Though the BJP has started the Sankalp Yatra, it looks dull in comparison because the scam-hit government is facing strong anti-incumbency sentiments.
Bellary was set to hear speeches from Opposition leader Siddaramaiah, KPCC chief DK Shivakumar, and, of course, Rahul Gandhi. Rahul, who saw the huge support for his party and its leader Siddaramaiah at Davanegere at Siddaramotsava in August, is happy with the support he is getting in Karnataka for the second time. He wants his leaders to use Saturday’s Bellary bash as a “go ahead” and defeat the BJP in the state.
Rahul knows it will help his party achieve more in the next Lok Sabha elections in 2024. He does not have so much at stake in Bellary as did Sonia and Siddaramaiah. His Yatra just passes through the city. However, he needed this rally to show Congress unity and strength.
“Leaders jodo” exercise
Since Rahul’s Bharat Jodo yatra is also a “leaders jodo” exercise, the two bigwigs and “CM aspirants,” Siddaramaiah and DK Shivakumar, joined hands again. Under Rahul’s directions, the two leaders had a public “hug” and beat the drum along with him when Bharat Jodo Yatra entered Karnataka through Gundlu Pet. Rahul wants the “silence” of both leaders to help the party fight the BJP, which has different strategies from the Congress.
A senior Congress leader said the Bellary rally will be a stepping stone for the party to return to power in 2023. At the same time, the “silence” of the Reddy brothers will not be a good sign for the BJP.
Also, the number of CM candidates has come down as the former Deputy CM, Dr G Parameshwara, is silent, and Opposition leader of Rajya Sabha, M Mallikarjuna Kharge, is about to be elevated to the position of AICC president.
With other leaders, such as MB Patil, Dinesh Gundurao, and BK Hariprasad, not standing much of a chance to bag the CM’s post compared to the charisma of Siddaramaiah and DK Shivakumar, Rahul sees unity in the party.