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Though B. Sriramulu of the BJP and D.K. Shivakumar of the Congress aren’t contesting the election themselves, victory in Ballari has more to do with their personal ambitions. Photo: HT
Though B. Sriramulu of the BJP and D.K. Shivakumar of the Congress aren’t contesting the election themselves, victory in Ballari has more to do with their personal ambitions. Photo: HT

Ballari LS bypoll turns prestige battle for Congress, BJP

While Congress is yet to announce its candidate for Ballari, Sriramulu's sister J. Shantha is the BJP's choice for the bypoll

The battle lines have been drawn in the mineral-rich district of Ballari, about 320 km from Bengaluru. D.K. Shivakumar of the Congress and B. Sriramulu of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are set take on each other through proxies in the 3 November bypolls.

While the Congress is yet to announce its candidate for Ballari, Sriramulu’s sister, J. Shantha is the BJP’s choice for the bypolls.

Though the tenure will barely last a few months, the victory will boost Shivakumar’s and Sriramulu’s aspirations of landing high offices within their respective parties. The Ballari seat had fallen vacant after Sriramulu had successfully contested the May assembly elections.

Shivakumar, who has a near impeccable track record of securing wins for his party, including engineering a defeat of former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda’s long political career, is the district in-charge for Ballari.

Sriramulu is one of the strongest leaders within the BJP, and had nearly defeated former chief minister Siddaramaiah in the May assembly polls.

Though the two aren’t contesting the polls themselves, victory in Ballari has more to do with their personal ambitions.

“What is the pressure. There is no pressure," said Shivakumar, who had successfully shielded Congress and Janata Dal (Secular), or JDS legislators from the prying eyes of the BJP in May. He had also made no secret of his ambition to one day become the chief minister as well the state party president.

“I have the same experience as him," said Sriramulu. “Rokka ne avana credibility. Adhu illi kelsa maadolla (money is his only credibility and it won’t work here)."

A candidate in Ballari is likely to spend anywhere between 20-30 crore to contest the by-polls, said a senior leader of the Karnataka Congress, requesting anonymity.

Two assembly seats (Jamkhandi and Ramanagaram) and three parliamentary constituencies (Shivamogga, Ballari and Mandya) will hold by-polls on 3 November.

While Congress will contest Shivamogga, Ballari and Jamkhandi, its alliance partner JD(S) will contest in Mandya and Ramanagaram.

BJP state president B.S. Yeddyurappa’s son is the favourite to win the Shivamogga by-polls, while JD(S), which swept all seven assembly constituencies in Vokkaliga-dominated Mandya, is expected to retain the seat that fell vacant after C.S.Puttaraju became a minister in the H.D.Kumaraswamy cabinet.

While both Shivakumar and Sriramulu are confident of a victory in Ballari, the pressure is more on Congress. More so on Shivakumar, who had faced a backlash in Ballari, after his grand plans to spread his ‘influence’ on the northern district of Belagavi, which is home to the powerful Jarkiholi brothers.

He had made an unsuccessful bid to fill in for Siddaramaiah, who was out of the country at the time, resulting in a fresh round of rebellion from the Jarkiholi’s, who allegedly countered by engineering dissent within Ballari to force the Vokkaliga strongman on the defensive. The fresh round of dissent had threatened to destabilise the four-month coalition government. Adding to the trouble in Ballari for the Congress is the constant infighting for dominance within the party. “There are several camps within the party. We are at risk of antagonising the other no matter who we nominate," said the person cited above.

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