The roads are still dusty, development clearly missing, Bellary at 40 degrees has turned out to be a battle ground between the BJP and the Congress. Sriramulu of the BJP is against former Chief Justice, N Y Hanumanthappa of the Congress.
There however is one small change that one gets to see in Bellary and that is the mining lobby is not as blatant as it used to be. Five years back, the mining industry was at its peak and when traveled on the roads of Bellary it gave the constant feeling that a dumper with iron ore could run over you. Thanks to the Supreme Court, the mining mania has been brought under control.
The battle for Bellary has always been an interesting one as it offers all the ingredients of a action packed thriller. The last few elections have seen money being thrown, SUV’s being burned, choppers flying all over etc. This time the scale of that extravagance is relatively down. However the money is still around and only yesterday the Election Commission of India seized Rs 9 crore in cash alleged for election purpose.
This time the fight for Bellary became interesting only thanks to the return of Sriramulu to the BJP. He had quit the BJP three years back and floated the BSR Congress party after he was accused by the Lokayukta of being part of the illegal mining scam. He contested the last assembly elections from Bellary on his own and managed to win 3 out of the 8 seats. The Congress won three while the BJP and the JD(S) shared one seat each. The BJP was fully aware of the potential of Sriramulu and hence despite all allegations of him being ethically corrupt took him back into the party. This despite his one time mother, Sushma Swaraj openly stating that she as opposed to this move.
However for the BJP the numbers are important. They are trying to regain lost ground in Karnataka. They realize that retaining Bellary is very important and fielding Sriramulu does not only help this constituencies but he generates a lot of votes in the surrounding areas as well. According to the BJP, Sriramulu can influence three constituencies including Bellary.
For Sriramulu there are several advantages. There are 4 lakh voters belonging to the Schedule Tribes and his vote share has consistently shown that 75 per cent of these voters cast their ballot in his favour. He also has a considerable amount of clout with the youth and this has very often been his trump card.
His opponent N Y Hanumanthappa was not the first choice for the Congress. He had been seen as a liability at the age of 75 and complaints that he vanished from Bellary after his defeat in the 2009 elections were all factors that were going against him. However for the Congress he as still the best candidate available since his 2009 record was not bad at all. In 2009, the Reddy brothers had fielded their sister J Shantha. She won by a paltry margin of 2000 votes against Hanumanthappa. This was a defeat of sorts for the Reddy brothers who used to openly proclaim that none can win against them in Bellary. Going by this logic, Shantha should have had a victory margin of 1 lakh votes.
Sriramulu looks like has the edge, but it is no cake walk for him. He is relying heavily on the caste and youth factor. Unlike the previous times, the great influence (read muscle power) of the Reddy brothers is not present and this is a factor that goes against him. Moreover the Congress has a greater control over the district administration of Bellary and this is a quite a dampner for the BJP here.
Hanumanthappa on his part is fighting the elections as though this was his last. He has been using the corruption tag against Sriramulu extensively and thinks he is with a chance based on the 2009 verdict. However Hanumanthappa also knows that there is a difference between Shantha and Sriramulu. Shantha was nothing but a dummy candidate and a very new face in the constituency unlike Sriramulu. However Hanumanthappa says that this time it is different. Sriramulu left the BJP and then came back to the part and this itself has created a doubt in the minds of the voter regarding his loyalty. A person who could not be loyal to the party cannot be loyal to his constituency.
Hanumanthappa would also hope that the Aam Admi Party candidate, Shivakumar Mallagi would be able to take away some of the youth votes. Mallagi has been on a drive to lure the youth and in case he does manage to take away some of this vote share, then it hurts Sriramulu directly.
However the political analysts do not see this happening and say that it is a 60:40 battle in favour of the BJP.
Both the Congress and the BJP have pumped in all their resources to take control over Bellary. Rahul Gandhi, Rajnath Singh, B S Yeddyurappa among others were all part of the Bellary campaign.
The people on the other hand come out with the same complaints. They say the roads are not good, there is no drinking water among many other problems. However what one has seen of Bellary in the past ten years that these are just complaints and on voting day none of these matter and the people vote for the very same people they have complained about.