With the Karnataka assembly elections getting closer to reality, the political temperature in the state has started to rise. This time, Congress has taken the lead in its campaign. The party’s bus tour campaign started today in Belgaum. This campaign is called Prajadhwani. As part of this campaign, Congress is bringing a charge sheet against the present BJP government. The Basavaraj Bommai-led state government has already been dogged by allegations of corruption, a contractor’s suicide controversy and allegations of 40% commission. Meanwhile, Congress hopes to make a comeback in the state. Now, the Congress campaign is being heralded by two of its strongest leaders: state president DK Shivakumar and former state chief minister and current LOP Siddaramaiah.
However, today we are going to focus on Siddaramaiah. No one can deny that he is one of the most popular Congress leaders in the state today and enjoys immense public support, evident from his 75th birthday celebrations last year organized as Siddharamotsav. A few days ago, Siddaramaiah made an important announcement putting an end to this doubt. In a public forum, he announced where he would contest the upcoming elections. Although, the announcement comes with a rider that it is subject to party approval.
Interestingly, this is not the constituency in which he contested the election in 2018. So why does Siddaramaiah want to contest from Kolar? Is he choosing a safe place? And will the Congress approve their wish or call it a declaration?
Siddaramaiah, surrounded by party leaders and workers during his visit to Kolar on January 9, announced that he would contest the upcoming elections from this constituency. “I have decided to file my candidature from Kolar for the next assembly elections. This is subject to the high command’s approval,” Siddaramaiah said.
In 2018, he did not announce his candidacy from two seats until April. This time, his announcement came too soon. Siddaramaiah’s announcement comes in the wake of criticism from his opponents that he never sticks to one constituency and is looking for a safe seat. Despite being the Chief Minister and one of the tallest leaders of the state, he could not build his stronghold. And they are not wrong.
Siddaramaiah has changed many constituencies in the last two decades. He entered the Legislative Assembly in 1983 after winning the election from Chamundeshwari constituency. This place falls in Mysore district. He was then a Janata Dal candidate. However, after he joined the Congress, he contested from the seat till 2008. In 2008, after delimitation, a new constituency called Varuna was created. He contested the election from this seat and won. In 2013, he contested the election from this seat. However, in 2018, he returned to his old constituency of Chamundeshwari. He vacated the Varun seat which was considered safe for his son Yathindra Siddaramaiah. However, in Chamundeshwari, he faced stiff competition from JDS’s GT Deve Gowda. So sensing the danger, the then Chief Minister decided to contest from another constituency: Badami in Bagalkot district. In Badami, he contested against BJP’s B Sriramulu and won by a narrow margin. Losing out to Chamundeshwari, second place proved to be their saving grace. In 2018, he chose two constituencies to contest. One in North Karnataka and the other in South Karnataka. So it was natural for his opponents and supporters to wonder whether he would do the same now. But putting an end to all the speculations, he has announced that he will contest the elections from Kolar.
Why is he giving up Badami?
While he won from Badami last time, Siddaramaiah says the constituency is far from Bengaluru. Due to age, they cannot move around their constituencies frequently. Travel time also appears to be a factor in choosing Kolar. This constituency is one hour away from the state capital Bangalore.
Well, according to the report, there were different constituencies to consider. It included Chamarajpet, Koppal and Kolar. Chamarajpet sitting MLA Jameer Ahmed Khan who is close to Siddaramaiah was ready to vacate his seat but Siddaramaiah’s opponents accused him of appeasing Muslims after the standoff at the Eidgah Maidan. BJP even tried to portray him as Sidramullah Khan by making fun of him. Moreover, BJP tried to portray him as Tipu Sultan by publishing the book ‘Khari Swapne Siddaramaiah’, taking off from the Rangayan play The Real Dreams of Tipu Sultan. So it is understood that Siddaramaiah avoided Chamarajpet constituency to avoid this label being attached to him.
Kolar on the other hand is a very favorable constituency for him due to its caste composition. Kolar falls in the AHINDA population belt, making it a preferred location for former chief ministers.
What is Ahinda?
AHINDA is an acronym for Minority (minority), Hindulidavaru (backward class) and Dalitru (Dalit). In 2013, Siddaramaiah-led Congress decided to focus on these communities for social/communal engineering. Lingayat and Vokkaliga have two major vote banks in Karnataka. Ahinda is an attempt to unite the remaining communities to counter the dominance of these two communities in the state’s electoral politics.
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Caste Arithmetic of Kolar
According to Chanakya data, the constituency has approximately 47,726 SC voters which is about 21.08% as per 2011 census. The number of ST voters is approximately 9,418 which is about 4.16%. Muslim voters are approximately 65,204 which is about 28.8%.
Not only this, this constituency has around 25 thousand voters of the Kuruba community, to which Siddaramaiah belongs.
Siddaramaiah is supported by not only Ahinda and Kuruba votes but also Vokkaliga leader Krishna Byre Gowda, former Speaker Ramesh Kumar and others.
The district has many strong Congress leaders, most of whom are supporters of Siddaramaiah. The neighboring constituencies of Bangarpet, Malur and Srinivaspura have Congress MLAs and from there party and booth-level workers will boost Siddaramaiah’s campaign in Kolar.
Secondly, the sitting MLA from Kolar, JD(S) MLA Srinivas Gowda has indicated his readiness to vacate the seat for Sidda.
Danger in Kolar
There are two types of hurdles for Siddaramaiah in Kolar. One of his own party. Kolar Dalit leader and former Congress MP Muniyappa. reported He is upset over the lack of support from the Siddaramaiah camp for his parliamentary bid. But some other reports say that Siddaramaiah met with Muniyappa and extended his support before taking the decision.
The second threat comes from Varathur Prakash, in 2018 Varathur Prakash contested as a Congress candidate against Srinivas Gowda. He is also the leader of the Kuruba community. Later he joined BJP and now he is confident that he will get ticket from BJP. If that happens, the opinion of the Kurubas in Kolar may be divided. However, one thing Siddaramaiah can reiterate is that the BJP does not have a strong base in Kolar.
For Siddaramaiah, this election is almost a do or die situation. The BJP is looking to exert all the pressure to defeat Siddaramaiah or at least keep him busy in his constituency so that he cannot campaign for the party and other candidates. On the other hand, if they lose the election, they may also lose their supremacy in the party. Currently, there is a power struggle between him and DK Shivakumar in the party.
But Siddaramaiah is a seasoned politician and knows how to flex his muscles. His 75th birthday was no less. He celebrated it at Davangere with lakhs of supporters, the festival was named Siddharamotsava. So, at the age of 75, Siddaramaiah has started preparing for the next important election. Will he succeed or not?
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