It was a perceived win for the BJP in the upcoming bye-elections in the Shivamogga Lok Sabha constituency. The seat, which has been a fortress of the BJP since 2009, does not seem impenetrable anymore. BY Raghavendra, son of former Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa was announced as the BJP’s prized candidate well ahead of the elections.
The party, which was confident of winning due to support for Yeddyurappa, remained lax in tackling the issue of how crucial caste politics is in Shivamogga.
The Congress was to field its candidates for the Shivamogga, Ballari and Jamkhandhi bye-polls, JD(S) was to field its leaders in Mandya and Ramanagara. With no Congress leader showing interest to contest the Shivamogga seat, the BJP was doubly sure of a win and was mulling about fielding BY Raghavendra for the 2019 general elections as well.
Things took a turn when the Congress decided to give up Shivamogga and the JD(S) zeroed in on Madhu Bangarappa as its candidate. “Several names of Congress leaders were doing the rounds but none of them wanted to contest or spend money just to be elected for one year. That’s why Congress decided to give up that seat,” a Congress source said.
When Madhu Bangarappa was nominated as the JD(S) candidate to contest the Shivamogga seat, local BJP leaders began doubting the possibility of a win. The reason? Caste calculations.
The Congress-JD(S) alliance, for once, brought the cadre from both parties together and with a sense of rejuvenated enthusiasm, party workers and leaders began campaigning for Madhu Bangarappa.
The Shivamogga district is dominated by members of the Lingayat community followed by the Edigas, Dalits, Brahmins, Muslims, Vokkaligas and OBCs. Besides, there is also a sizable population of the Jains, Rajputs, Christians and also Tamil-speaking people.
“There are over 2.8 lakh Lingayats, followed by Edigas with a small margin, 2.5 lakh Dalits, 2 lakh Edigas, 1.5 lakh Brahmins, 1.2 lakh Muslims and over 60000 Kurubas,” a BJP source said.
Lingayats have always voted for the BJP in Shivamogga, and BS Yeddyurappa and his son BY Raghavendra, being Lingayats, have had the upper hand, until Madhu Bangarappa’s nomination was announced. The Lingayats, Brahmins, Edigas, Bants, Jains and a section of the Dalits have voted for the BJP since former Chief Minister S Bangarappa’s demise in 2011.
S Bangarappa’s son Madhu Bangarappa, an Ediga, can win the Ediga and Dalit votes in the region. “Madhu Bangarappa is being supported by both Congress and JD(S). He is likely to bag the Ediga, Minorities, OBC and Dalit votes in the region. People are still loyal to S Bangarappa and his family is very strong in this region,” the source added.
With the break in the caste combination, chances of BY Raghavendra’s win is dicey, sources say. In the 2018 Assembly elections, the Ediga votes had shifted to the BJP as Madhu Bangarappa’s brother Kumar Bangarappa had contested on a BJP ticket.
“Since S Bangarappa, no leader from the Ediga community has been elected to the Lok Sabha. This may sway them towards Madhu,” the source said.