Children of ex-CMs & firebrand expelled BJP leader spice up LS poll scene in Karnataka’s Shimoga

PTI, May 5, 2024, 11:36 AM IST

The contest between children of two former Chief Ministers and the presence of an expelled BJP leader in the fray has spiced up the poll scene in Karnataka’s Shimoga Lok Sabha constituency.

It is for the fifth consecutive time since 2009, including a bypoll in 2018, the segment is witnessing a straight fight between the families two popular leaders and former Chief Ministers late S Bangarappa and B S Yediyurappa.

Known as the heartland of socialist movement in Karnataka, Shivamogga is a part of the ‘Malnad’ region.

The BJP has renominated MP and Yediyurappa’s son B Y Raghavendra.

The Congress has named Bangarappa’s daughter Geetha Shivarajkumar, who is the wife of Karnataka film star Shivarajkumar and daughter-in-law of Kannada thespian late Rajkumar.

Raghavendra has been elected to Parliament from this ”Gateway to Malnad” three times.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and in the 2018 by-election, he defeated Geetha’s brother Madhu Bangarappa, who is now a Minister in the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government. Madhu was then with JD(S).

Raghavendra defeated Madhu by over 2.23 lakh votes in 2019.

Raghavendra had in his first Lok Sabha election in 2009 defeated S Bangarappa.

Geetha had contested from the seat on the JD(S) ticket in 2014 and lost to Yediyurappa by a huge margin. She had come third in that election behind Congress candidate Manjunath Bhandary.

While the stage was almost set for a contest between Raghavendra and Geetha Shivrajkumar this time, BJP veteran K S Eshwarappa rebelled against the party over the denial of ticket to his son K E Kantesh from neighbouring Haveri.

The former Deputy Chief Minister, who had also served as the party’s state unit President, has entered the fray as an independent blaming Raghavendra’s brother and state BJP President B Y Vijayendra and Yediyurappa for his son being overlooked.

The 75-year-old Eshwarappa has been campaigning vigorously claiming that his fight is not against the BJP or Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but to ”purify” the party in the state by setting it free from the clutches of Yediyurappa and sons.

He accused them of trying to establish dynasty rule in the party, by sidelining several Hindutva leaders.

Eshwarappa was expelled by the party for six years after he refused to bow out of the poll race.

There are some apprehensions about Eshwarappa eating into BJP’s votes, but party leaders and functionaries insist that it may only have ”marginal impact” on the three-time MP’s prospects, as the latter has established himself politically in the region, and has party’s solid organisational strength behind him.

Along with his work as an MP, Raghavendra is banking on the ”Modi factor”, Yediyurappa’s strong leadership, and alliance partner JD(S)’ votes getting transferred in his favour.

”With the support I’m getting, I’m confident of winning with an even bigger margin than last time. I have never thought about who the opponent is and have always concentrated on my work and achievements and that of our government,” the 50-year-old Raghavendra said.

On the other hand, through his sister Geetha Shivrajkumar’s win, Madhu Bangarappa is hoping to avenge successive defeats his family faced in Lok Sabha polls, including that of his father 15 years ago.

Geetha is relying on her late father Bangarappa’s legacy, brother Madhu’s political clout in the region being district in-charge Minister, husband Shivrajkumar’s star image and popularity with some film stars too campaigning for her, and also Congress’ organisational strength and its populist guarantee schemes.

Congress is also hoping for the numerically strong Ediga community, of which late Bangarappa was the tallest leader, backing Geetha, along with other OBCs.

”From day one everything has been positive and I’m getting good response even in the remote areas, and I’m confident it will convert into votes as people are wanting change this time,” Geetha said.

While Congress eyes electoral dividends over Eshwarappa’s rebellion, the BJP — with Geetha’s other brother and former Minister Kumar Bangarappa on its side – is hoping to bag a significant chunk of Ediga votes.

Shimoga Lok Sabha segment has eight Assembly constituencies, out of which four are represented by BJP, Congress in three and JD(S) one.

”Geetha Shivarjkumar comes during elections and goes back, she will not remain here, she comes temporarily only during elections, but Raghanna (Raghavendra) is not like that he is from here and he is always here. Also, he has Modi and Yediyurappa’s blessings, he will win,” said a voter in Tirthahalli.

”Congress’ guarantees schemes are definitely helping people, especially the poor, so it will have an impact in the polls, and Geetha Shivarajkumar will win. We want a woman to win. She is also the daughter of Bangarappa,” a woman student in Shivamogga said.

By Kishore S U 

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