As the bye-elections for 15 Assembly constituencies approaches, some of the rebels who have defected to the BJP, are facing the heat from their constituents. Among them are disqualified MLAs Narayana Gowda (KR Pete), Shivaram Hebbar (Yellapur) and Mahesh Kumatahalli (Athani). The bye-elections are slated for December 5 and vote counting is on December 9.
With rebels suffering the ire of their constituents, BJP insiders say that there are doubts about these candidates winning the bye-polls
Trouble in Mandya
In Mandya’s KR Pete, former JD(S) rebel, who is now the BJP’s candidate, Narayana Gowda has obtained police protection, fearing backlash from angry constituents and JD(S) workers. KR Pete has for long been a bastion of the JD(S) and Narayana Gowda has been elected as the MLA of this constituency for two terms – in 2013 and 2018. However, ever since he began making statements against JD(S) supremo, HD Deve Gowda, anger has been brewing among his own constituents, BJP sources say.
The fallout was evident when constituents attacked him with slippers outside the Deputy Commissioner’s office in Mandya, when Narayana Gowda had gone to file his nomination on November 18. Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister JC Madhuswamy, who was with Narayana Gowda also got hit with slippers.
Narayana Gowda has also been at the receiving end of criticism from his own constituents during his campaign and hence, he has been provided with security personnel to ensure his safety.
BJP insiders say that many KR Pete’s residents are affiliated to the JD(S) and by speaking against one of the tallest leaders from the Vokkaliga community, Narayana Gowda may have got himself into a position of disadvantage. Narayana Gowda began speaking against Deve Gowda when he and other rebels were staying in Mumbai.
“Deve Gowda is trying to sabotage me. Why are you (Deve Gowda) trying to stamp out honest leaders? Please leave us alone… He cannot stand it when people from the Vokkaliga community apart from his family members to gain popularity,” Narayana Gowda had said in July.
BJP insiders now concede, “No candidate has won elections in Mandya by speaking ill of Deve Gowda. With Narayana Gowda fearing for his safety, it does not build confidence in the voters about electing him.”
Backlash in Athani and Yellapur
In several villages in Belagavi’s Athani, residents have erected boards saying ‘no entry for rebel leaders’. This board was also put up in disqualified MLA Mahesh Kumatahalli’s hometown – Telasanga village. “Athani is the land of Lord Shiva. There is no place for people who sold their post as legislator for money,” the board reads in Kumatahalli’s hometown. The board was erected with a picture of former Lokayukta Santosh Hegde, who was responsible for exposing the multi-crore mining scam allegedly perpetrated by the Reddy brothers in Ballari.
BJP sources say that constituents of Athani were unhappy as Mahesh Kumatahlli was lodged in the hotel in Mumbai, when floods had ravaged Belagavi.
“The compensation amount is taking time to reach the flood victims and this has led to anti-incumbency in several parts of Athani,” the BJP source says.
The situation is similar in Yellapur, where rebel leader Shivaram Hebbar’s convoy was gheraoed in Ajjarani village on November 27. Villagers shouted slogans against Hebbar and questioned him as to why he did not visit the constituency when the floods had affected the villagers.
Hebbar was among the rebels who was in Mumbai when the floods occurred. The local BJP cadre too have rebelled against its own candidate. In Ajjani, BJP workers also blamed Hebbar for the party’s defeat in the 2018 Assembly elections. The local rebellion and anti-incumbency have put Shivaram Hebbar at a disadvantage, BJP sources say.
“We have BJP leaders with good reputations campaigning for these rebels. In Gujarat, Maharashtra and Telangana, the rebels were defeated and this has become a concern for the party and constituents are openly saying they will defeat Shivaram Hebbar and Mahesh Kumatahalli. We are banking on the Modi factor to win,” the BJP leader says.