The bye-election to the Lok Sabha seat from the Ballari Parliamentary constituency has turned into a major election battle with both the BJP and the Congress throwing their weight behind their nominated candidates.
The BJP stepped up campaigning for the Ballari bye-elections by bringing in state leaders Shobha Karandlaje, CT Ravi, V Somanna and Basavaraj Bommai to boost local strongman Sriramulu in his attempts to ensure a win for his sister J Shantha.
Senior Congress leaders, including DK Shivakumar, Krishna Byre Gowda, Priyank Kharge and former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, have been campaigning in the district backing their candidate VS Ugrappa.
The BJP, meanwhile, brought in leaders like Shobha Karandlaje, V Somanna, and Basavaraj Bommai only this week.
For the Congress, Siddaramaiah held a rally in Hampasagara on Monday where he launched a stinging attack on Sriramulu, whom he had defeated in the Assembly elections earlier in the year.
Meanwhile, DK Shivakumar, district minister in-charge of Ballari, visited a jeans and trouser producing unit in Millerpet and undertook a door-to-door campaign seeking votes for Ugrappa.
"Every time there is a bye-election, the party assigns personnel to ensure victory. If there are 100 resources that can be utilised, then very well, we should use it. It is not only specific to Ballari," said Social Welfare Minister Priyank Kharge.
BJP leader Shobha Karandlaje too began campaigning in the district after she addressed a meeting in Hosapete on Thursday while Sriramulu has been taking part in road shows and rallies in the district in a frenetic manner.
"The election is going to be much tighter than we expected. The Congress has brought in several leaders to Ballari and it was only Sriramulu campaigning until this week. Now, the BJP has also brought in leaders like Shobha Karandlaje to boost the campaign here," an official working with Sriramulu told TNM.
The Congress campaign has been hampered by tension within its ranks between Shivakumar and the Jarkiholi brothers – Ramesh and Satish. The brothers refused to share stage with Shivakumar at a rally in Kudligi on Wednesday. However, Congress leaders tried to play the incident down.
"These days, people are reading too much between the lines. I don’t think there is any disagreement between them. They have different responsibilities and they are efficient enough to carry them out. If everybody is in the stage at the same time, who will do the other work?" Priyank Kharge told TNM.
As the Congress faces an uphill task wrest the election away from the BJP, which is banking on the strong grassroots presence of Sriramulu, the party will need Shivakumar and the Jarkiholi brothers on the same page.Sriramulu, who belongs to the Valmiki community, is a popular face in Ballari. The elections are taking after Sriramulu vacated his MP seat after he was elected as MLA of nearby Molakalmuru constituency.
He has previously been elected as the MP from Ballari and his closeness to mining baron and former BJP minister Janardhana Reddy is seen as a sign of power by residents of the district.
The Congress has responded to the challenge by bringing in several ministers to campaign in the district.
However, the fact that Ugrappa is an outsider will work against him and the Congress will have to find a way to convince voters that in spite of being an outsider, he represents a steady alternative to Shantha, whose campaign is being micromanaged by Sriramulu.