P M Raghunandan,
The Congress and the JD(S) are locked in a neck-to-neck fight in the
August 21 byelection to the Bangalore Rural parliamentary constituency with the two parties pulling out all stops to outsmart each other.
Winning the bypoll is the only aim for both the parties. So much so that they have bade goodbye to their ideologies and principles. Forging alliances, poaching influential rival party leaders, mud-slinging, playing the emotional card, the two parties are leaving no stone unturned in their bid to emerge victorious.
The Bangalore Rural constituency comprises eight Assembly segments – Ramanagar, Channapatna, Kanakapura, Magadi (in Ramanagar district), Kunigal (Tumkur district), Anekal, Bangalore South and Rajarajeshwarinagar (Bangalore Urban district).
Of the eight Assembly constituencies, the JD(S) and Congress hold three each, while the BJP and Samajwadi Party hold one each. The bypoll was necessitated due to the resignation of H D Kumaraswamy of the JD(S) as the MP, after his election to the Assembly.
The Congress has fielded D K Suresh, brother of senior MLA D K Shivakumar, while the JD(S) has fielded Anitha Kumaraswamy, wife of Kumaraswamy. Suresh is a novice to electoral politics, while Anitha is a former JD(S) MLA in what is a straight contest.
They both belong to the dominant Vokkaliga community. The bypoll is seen as an extended political war of two rival families. Gowda and his family members have fought many elections against Shivakumar since 1985.
With both the parties appearing to be equal in strength (going by the Assembly polls), they have been working overtime. The JD(S) has virtually diluted its “secular ideology” by entering into a tacit understanding with the BJP, which has a strong base in three constituencies located in Bangalore Urban district and Kunigal.
The BJP has not fielded its candidate in the bypoll and is supporting the JD(S). Though Gowda has been denying any understanding with the BJP (so as not to antagonise Muslim voters), former deputy chief minister and BJP leader R Ashoka openly campaigned for Anitha in Bangalore South on Sunday.
The KJP, led by B S Yeddyurappa, who was once a bete noire of Kumaraswamy, has extended support to the JD(S). Retaining its hold in the Vokkaliga-dominant region by winning the bypoll is a must for the JD(S) ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
The Congress, on its part, went against its principle of not encouraging those with criminal background by fielding Suresh as its candidate. Ironically, the party had no choice but seek the help of Shivakumar, whom it refused to induct in the Cabinet citing alleged corruption charges, as it lacked a strong candidate to take on the might of the JD(S). He has now taken it as a prestige issue to win the bypoll as his political future hinges on the result.
The ruling party also appears to have given full freedom to the DK brothers (as they are popularly known in the constituency) to seek anybody’s support, irrespective of their ideology and background.
That was why Shivakumar approached Yeddyurappa, seeking his help, and joined hands with Jedarahalli Krishnappa, a former don, in Magadi. Besides, the party has poached the BJP and the JD(S) leaders, including former MLA M Srinivas and former MP C Narayanaswamy, who are popular in Rajarajeshwarinagar and Anekal respectively.
More importantly, the DK brothers succeeded in getting the support of SP MLA from Channapatna, C P Yogeeshwara. But Yogeeshwara has decided not to publicly campaign for the Congress. The JD(S), as a result, has been trying to pocket as many SP workers as possible in the run-up to the bypoll.
With political strategies and counter-strategies taking centrestage, development has become a non-issue in the campaign. While the father-son duo of the JD(S) are trying to gain sympathy of the fact that Anitha was defeated in the Assembly elections in Channapatna, the DK brothers and the Congress leaders have been trying hard to woo Muslim voters by questioning the secular credentials of JD(S).
However, much depends on whether the JD(S) really benefits from its understanding with the BJP and how far it will be able to control the damage to its “secular image”.
Sources in the JD(S) said that urban voters (those who supported the BJP) may not blindly support the JD(S), as expected by the party. Also, Chamarajpet MLA Zameer Ahmed Khan, who is considered the Muslim face of the JD(S), has kept himself off the campaign as he is reportedly upset with the party.
Similarly, support of Congress leaders, especially those in the eight Assembly constituencies, the SP in Channapatna and consolidation of Muslim votes are key for the success of the DK brothers. For, differences among the Congress leaders, especially local ones, may play spoilsport.