The campaigning for the bye-polls to determine the Lok Sabha seat in Ballari vacated by BJP leader B Sriramulu intensified on Monday after both the BJP and the Congress held rallies in the district. The bye-polls for the seat was expected to be a showdown between Sriramulu and Water Resources and Medical Education Minister DK Shivakumar, who is the District Minister-in-charge of Ballari.
However, after the Congress opted to nominate VS Ugrappa for the bye-elections, instead of Shivakumar's preferred candidate Venkatesh Prasad, the campaign has now turned into a showdown between Sriramulu and former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. Ugrappa, who is considered a Siddaramaiah loyalist, is facing Sriramulu's sister J Shantha of the BJP in the bye-polls scheduled for November 3.
Siddaramaiah addressed a rally in Hampasagara in Ballari on Monday, where he criticised BJP MLA Sriramulu, claiming that the BJP leader was inactive in the Assembly.
Siddaramaiah campaigning at Hampasagara in Ballari
Siddaramaiah said, “Sriramulu has not spoken in the Lok Sabha or the Assembly on even one day. Even Shanta, who is the BJP candidate and was previously in the Lok Sabha, has not spoken up earlier. Do you want to send them there for decoration?”
ಲೋಕಸಭೆ ಅಥವಾ ವಿಧಾನಸಭೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ಒಂದು ದಿನವೂ ಶ್ರೀರಾಮುಲು ಮಾತನಾಡಿಲ್ಲ. ಬಳ್ಳಾರಿ ಲೋಕಸಭೆ ಕ್ಷೇತ್ರದ ಅಭ್ಯರ್ಥಿಯಾಗಿರುವ ಶಾಂತಾ ಅವರೂ ಈ ಹಿಂದೆ ಲೋಕಸಭೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ಮಾತನಾಡಿಲ್ಲ. ಅಲಂಕಾರಕ್ಕೆ ಅವರನ್ನು ಅಲ್ಲಿಗೆ ಕಳುಹಿಸಬೇಕೇ?— Siddaramaiah (@siddaramaiah) October 22, 2018
The jibe by Siddaramaiah elicited an immediate response from Sriramulu, who pointed out that his attendance in the Lok Sabha was the same as Congress President Rahul Gandhi, which, according to him is 52%. He also pointed out that he had asked 572 questions while Rahul had asked none.
“I wonder if you are sleeping when I speak in the Assembly. I am among the top MPs in the state, who make proper use of funds. I have participated in 20 Lok Sabha debates and asked 572 questions. Rahul Gandhi, on the other hand, has participated in just 12 debates and has not even asked a question,” Sriramulu said after a roadshow in Hosapete in Ballari on Monday.
ವಿಧಾನಸಭೆ ಹಾಗು ಲೋಕಸಭೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ನಾನು ಮಾತನಾಡುವಾಗ ನೀವು ನಿದ್ದೆಯಲ್ಲಿದ್ದಿರಿ ಅನಿಸುತ್ತಿದೆ. ಸಂಸದರ ನಿಧಿಯ ಸಮರ್ಪಕ ಬಳಕೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ರಾಜ್ಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಮೊದಲ ಸ್ಥಾನದಲ್ಲಿದ್ದೇನೆ. 16ನೇ ಲೋಕಸಭೆಯ 20 ಚರ್ಚೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ಭಾಗವಹಿಸಿ, 572 ಪ್ರಶ್ನೆ ಕೇಳಿದ್ದೇನೆ. ನಿಮ್ಮ ರಾಹುಲ್ ಗಾಂಧಿ ಕೇವಲ 12 ಚರ್ಚೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ಭಾಗವಹಿಸಿದ್ದು, ಒಂದು ಪ್ರಶ್ನೆಯನ್ನೂ ಕೇಳಿಲ್ಲ. https://t.co/JBgATvwaH8— B Sriramulu (@sriramulubjp) October 22, 2018
Siddaramaiah also pointed out that the fact that Ugrappa is not from Ballari will not make a difference in the elections. "If Ugrappa is considered an outsider, then what about Sriramulu, who contested against me in Badami? Even before Sriramulu was born, Ugrappa had made his debut in politics. If Ugrappa goes to the Lok Sabha, he will speak for Ballari there. If Shantha goes, that will not happen," he said. He further added that in spite of having a BJP government in the Centre, Sriramulu has not been able to implement projects in Ballari.
Sriramulu was the MP of Ballari from 2014 till he contested in the State Assembly elections earlier this year from nearby Molakalmuru. He was elected as an MLA and vacated his MP seat in Ballari as a result.
Sriramulu campaigning at Hosapete in Ballari
Sriramulu was also chosen by the BJP to contest the State Assembly elections from Badami against then Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. Even though he lost by a thin margin (1620 votes), he was the only BJP leader to contest from two constituencies and is emerging as a major BJP leader in North Karnataka. He is seen as a top leader of the Valmiki community and is popular in several districts of northern Karnataka.
ಉಗ್ರಪ್ಪ ಅವರನ್ನು ಹೊರಗಿನವರು ಎಂದು ಹೇಳುವುದಾದರೆ, ಬಾದಾಮಿಯಲ್ಲಿ ನನ್ನ ವಿರುದ್ಧ ಸ್ಪರ್ಧಿಸಿದ್ದ ಶ್ರೀರಾಮುಲು ಅಲ್ಲಿಯೇ ಜನಿಸಿದವರೇ? ಶ್ರೀರಾಮುಲು ಕಣ್ಣು ಬಿಡುವ ಮೊದಲೇ ಉಗ್ರಪ್ಪ ಅವರು ರಾಜಕೀಯಕ್ಕೆ ಪದಾರ್ಪಣೆ ಮಾಡಿದವರು. ಉಗ್ರಪ್ಪ ಅವರು ಲೋಕಸಭೆಗೆ ಹೋದರೆ ಅಲ್ಲಿ ಬಳ್ಳಾರಿ ಸದ್ದು ಮಾಡುತ್ತದೆ. ಶಾಂತಾ ಅವರು ಹೋದರೆ ಆ ಕೆಲಸ ಖಂಡಿತಾ ಆಗದು.— Siddaramaiah (@siddaramaiah) October 22, 2018
The two familiar foes are now up against each other again with their preferred candidates facing off against each other in the bye-polls for the Ballari Lok Sabha seat.
The JD(S), which does not have a significant presence in Ballari, has not nominated a candidate due to its alliance with the Congress in the elections.