It’s a district that has produced three Karnataka Chief Ministers in the past. Ramanagara district with only four Assembly constituencies has the distinction of putting on the Chief Minister’s chair Karnataka’s first CM Kengal Hanumantaiah, besides HD Devegowda and HD Kumaraswamy.
The 2018 Assembly Polls will witness some of the toughest electoral battles in this district with political heavyweights going out to bring each other down.
After delimitation in 2008, Ramanagara was reduced to four assembly constituencies – Ramanagara, Kanakpura, Magadi and Channapattana. Each of these constituencies have Vokkaliga strongmen vying to emerge victorious.
Here are some of Ramanagara’s main players.
Janata Dal (Secular) President HD Kumaraswamy
Ramanagara Assembly constituency is a bastion of the JD(S). Suffice to say that ever since party President HD Kumaraswamy contested polls in 2004 from this area, the seat has never been lost to another party.
This time around, Kumaraswamy is contesting from Ramanagara and sources in the Congress say that there is no doubt he will emerge victorious.
“While calculating potential victories and losses, Ramanagara constituency is a precarious one. Although in the past, the Congress and Janata Parties in various forms have held posts six times each, since 2004, it has become a JD(S) stronghold. With Kumaraswamy at the helm, it is a given that any other candidate is likely to lose and hence other parties usually don’t bother fielding their stronger candidates here,” the source added.
JD(S) insiders say that since Ramanagara is a district dominated by the Vokkaliga and the Muslim community, it has always been difficult for the BJP to make inroads.
“The only prominent Vokkaliga leader in BJP is R Ashoka and he too does not have that much clout here because he belongs to a section of the Vokkaliga community which is not politically active. It has always been easy for the JD(S) to win here,” the Congress source said.
The BJP too is gearing up for the fight. The party may field Tejaswini Gowda, who had in 2004 defeated Deve Gowda in the Lok Sabha polls. The BJP also has another aspirant Jagadeesh Gowda, a local leader, who is considered the “neighbourhood man, accessible to people”.
“Tejaswini Gowda is an aspirant and she has a very strong following in the Ramanagara area. In 2004, DK Shivakumar had fielded her as a Congress candidate for the Lok Sabha polls and she had won against Deve Gowda himself. So she has chances of winning the candidature,” a BJP leader said.
Incumbent Energy Minister DK Shivakumar
Popularly known as the power broker and master strategist in the Karnataka Congress, DK Shivakumar, the incumbent Kanakapura MLA is a force to reckon with in state politics. Shivakumar rose to fame during the 2004 Lok Sabha election when he supported the candidature of newbie Tejaswini Sriramesh, a television journalist-turned-politician, against former Prime Minister and veteran leader HD Deve Gowda in the Kanakapura constituency. She went on to win by a landslide victory, earning the reputation of being a giant killer. But it was DKS, who was then Minister of Urban Development and the MLA of Sathanur – which was a part of the Kanakapura constituency, who earned the praise and trust of the Congress top brass by ‘discovering’ Tejaswini.
DKS is also credited for the seven JD(S) MLAs rebelling against their party supremo and cross voting in the 2016 Rajya Sabha polls.
“The JD(S) first family and DK Shivakumar are bitter rivals and yet they hold power in the same district. This has been hard on the JD(S). The party leadership knows that it is difficult to bring DK Shivakumar down and hence it seems difficult to set up a strong candidate against him considering the fact that JD(S) still does not have enough leaders to contest all 224 seats,” a JD(S) leader said.
Serial defector and Vokkaliga strongman CP Yogeshwar
CP Yogeshwar, the Vokkaliga strongman, has earned the notorious reputation of jumping from one party to another at the turn of every Assembly Election.
He made his electoral debut in 1999, winning the Channapattana constituency as an independent candidate. In 2004, he went on to retain the same constituency but this time as a Congress candidate.
Yogeshwar, who won Channapattana in the 2008 Assembly polls on a Congress ticket, jumped ship soon after when Yeddyurappa became the CM. Resigning from his seat in 2009, Yogeshwar, however, went on to lose the subsequent bye-poll to the JD(S) candidate. However, a vacancy to the Channapattana seat caused by the JD(S) MLA defecting to the BJP, necessitated another bye-election in 2011. Yogeshwar, as the BJP candidate, won the bye-poll but went on to quit the saffron party in 2012.
He re-joined the Congress briefly before quitting and contesting on a Samajwadi Party ticket in 2013.
Lured by the promise of power by the Congress, Yogeshwar joined the party in 2014. However, he quit the Congress in 2017 after openly accusing DK Shivakumar of trying to sabotage his chances of becoming powerful in the region. Yogeshwar re-joined the BJP.
Despite Yogeshwar’s flightiness, he has emerged as the strongest leader in Channapattana Assembly constituency and all parties want him in their bag of potential winners.
His perpetual defections have led Congress to brand him as a betrayer with DK Shivakumar and his brother DK Suresh vowing to destroy Yogeshwar in his stronghold.
JD(S)-Congress pact and the politics of survival
JD(S) insiders, familiar with the politics in Ramanagara district, say that although Deve Gowda and DK Shivakumar are sworn enemies, they have held backroom talks and have decided to silently come together and destroy Yogeshwar.
“Deve Gowda and DK Shivakumar have two things in common. Both are master strategists and both are willing to set aside their hatred for each other to avoid BJP making inroads into their bastions. When Yogeshwar quit the Congress, DK Shivakumar and DK Suresh had held talks with HD Revanna and HD Deve Gowda. Both had agreed to come together to destroy Yogeshwar,” a JD(S) leader said.
JD(S) insiders say that Kumaraswamy announced his decision to contest from both Channapattana and Ramanagara to take down Yogeshwar. "Anita Kumaraswamy lost the previous time when she contested from Channapattana and hence senior leaders were apprehensive of giving her a ticket. Besides, Kumaraswamy did not want his family members to contest polls," the source said.
Sources in Congress say that an unspoken agreement prevails in Ramanagara where the JD(S) does not field strong candidates in Kanakapura and Channapattana and the Congress would field a weak candidate in Ramanagara and Magadi.