BANGALORE: Chamundeshwari and Badami have become the most talked about constituencies in political circles across the country as Karnataka goes to polls on May 12 to elect a new Assembly. The two Assembly segments have aroused curiosity not because Chief Minister Siddaramaiah is seeking perhaps his last mandate from there alone but because the contest here will be a pointer to the post-poll political alignments.
There are already talks that Janata Dal (S) is acting as a ‘B’ team of the Bharatiya Janata Party. If the chief minister loses both the seats it will be clear that the JD (S) would join hands with the saffron party after the polls to form a new government in the state in the event of a hung assembly. Most opinion polls have indicated that none of the three principal contenders will get the simple majority to form a government.
The BJP decision to field a weak candidate at Chamundeshwari, where the JD (S) candidate is the main rival to Siddaramaiah, is considered by political observers as a sign of the secret understanding between the two parties. Expecting a quid pro quo, the BJP has fielded a strongest candidate at Badami. The equations in both the constituencies are evenly matched.
While Siddaramaiah, who has represented the constituency in 1983, 1985, 1994, 2004,have a deep bond with it, his JD (S) rival enjoys the caste advantage. JD (S) nominee, GT Devegowda, is hoping to turn the tables on Siddaramaiah as a member of the Vokkaliga community, which dominates the constituency. Past election results show that the Volkaligas have always preferred a member of their community when they had a choice. Siddaramaiah, who is a member of the Kuruba community, just scraped through with a 257-vote majority in a by-election in 2006 when his principal rival was a member of the community.
This shock forced him to move to nearby Varuna in the subsequent elections. His rivals view the decision of Siddaramaiah to choose a second constituency to remain in the reckoning for power is his lack of confidence to win the Chamudeshwari seat. Devegowda, who has won the 2013 elections, has emerged as a tough competitor to Siddaramaiah not because of the caste factor alone but also his performance as an MLA in the last five years.
The voters in Chamundeshwari are generally satisfied with his performance. Most of them agree that he has done a commendable job in the developing the constituency. With both the caste factor and performance favouring the JD (S) candidate, political observers expect a tough fight in the constituency.
As per the estimates of 2011 census, out of total 309007 population 60.79% are rural and 39.21% are urban population. The Scheduled castes and Scheduled tribe ratios are 15.09 and 13.7 respectively out of total population. As per the voter list of 2017, there are 217198 electorates and 300 polling stations in this constituency. Voter turnout in the 2013 assembly election was 73.9% where as it was 70.82% in 2014 Lok Sabha Elections. The BJP, the INC and the JD(S) got 4.69%, 38.86% and 42.87% votes respectively in 2013 while 36.12%, 40.68% and 18.03% in 2014 respectively.
The contest in Badami attracted attention after BJP decided to field Ballari Lok Sabha memberB Sriramulu to take on Siddaramaiah.Sriramulu, an aide of mining baron Gali Janardhana Reddy, was fielded as part of the party’s strategy to tie down Siddaramaiah to the two constituencies. The party thinks that Sriramulu would be able to give a tough fight to Siddaramaiah as he belongs to the Valmiki tribal community, which is the second largest community in Badami after the Lingayat-Veerashaiva communities. Though the Siddaramaiah government has sought to divide Lingayat votes with the decision to give the minority religion status to them, the BJP hopes that a large section of the community may vote for the party as their chief ministerial candidate B S Yeddyurappa belongs to the community.
Sitting MLA B.B. Chimmanakatti, who belongs to the Congress, had so far thrived on the division in the Lingayat votes, which the BJP now wants to consolidate. The party also hopes that the JD (S) would support them if they help the party in Chamundeshwari. Mahandesh Gurudappa Mamadapur, the JDS candidate, who lost the 2013 election by a small margin I 2013 is already in the BJP camp now. The collective vote of the erstwhile Karnataka Janata Paksha (KJP) and the Badavara Shramika Raitara Congress, which have re-merged with the BJP after Yedyurappa was welcomed back in the saffron party and the JDS was more than that of the Congress in the last election.
The BJP also expects to benefit from the dissidence in the Congress over the denial of the party ticket to Chimmankatti. Political observers feel that Siddaramaiah would find the going tough if the supporters of Chimmankatti do not work for him. The party had felt the heat from the supporters of Devaraj Patil after he was asked to give the seat to Siddaramaiah. They have been mollified with the promise of an MLC seat to Patil in future.
The number of electorate in Badami is 201790 according to 2017 voter list. As per the estimates of 2011 census, out of total 278344 population 69.8% are rural and 30.2% are urban population. The Scheduled castes and Scheduled tribe ratios are 13.14 and 9.29 respectively out of total population. Voter turnout in the 2013 assembly election was 70.71% where as it was 66.37% in 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The BJP, the INC and the JD(S) got 21.79%, 41.31% and 30.44% votes respectively in 2013 while 54.11%, 40.15% and 0.75% in 2014 respectively.