While majority are in praise of the Lingayat strongman, some believe that his fortunes might dip this time around.

Will divided Opposition help Yeddyurappa in high stakes battle at Shikaripura
Karnataka Elections Karnataka 2018 Thursday, May 10, 2018 - 11:02

Filing his nomination from Shikaripura on April 19, former CM BS Yeddyurappa (BSY) expressed confidence about emerging victorious “with a minimum lead of 30,000-40,000 votes”.

To call Yeddyurappa a heavyweight is in fact, an understatement. This is in stark contrast to CM Siddaramaiah’s Chamundeshwari seat which is not as secure, and this is why most believe he was forced to contest from a ‘safer’ second seat.

The BJP’s chief ministerial face had last lost from the constituency in 1999. Shikaripura has been a happy hunting ground for Yeddyurappa to say the least. Prior to 1999, he had won from there thrice at a stretch—  in 1985, 1989 and 1994. And following that, he became the MLA again in 2004, 2008 and 2013 (on a Karnataka Janata Paksha ticket).

He resigned as MLA in May, 2014, following his landslide victory in Lok Sabha polls from Shimoga seat. His challengers, this time, are Congress’s Goni Malatesh, a taluk panchayat- level leader. Others include JD(S)’s Baligar, an electoral novice and AAP’s Chandrakant, who is involved in court cases against the Lingayat strongman.

A majority of locals who TNM spoke to, are in praise of the 75-year-old Lingayat strongman.

Many attribute the growth and development of the whole district to him, including the transformation of Shimoga from a quaint little town.

“Work has progressed under Yeddyurappa. Since when he became a Deputy CM, work has picked up in the region. Leave alone Shikaripura, the whole of Shivamogga (Shimoga’s official name) district has concrete roads. People here love Yeddyurappa. The bus stands, roads, temple and parks have come up only because of him. We will vote as he will get us rail connectivity,” Raghavendra, a Shikaripura resident and self-confessed BJP voter (not BSY’s son) said.

The possibility of him becoming CM also works in his favour. A grocery store owner said, “He is the future CM. He is our local leader.”

A set of youngsters who TNM spoke to, also voiced a similar opinion.

Asraf, an aerospace professional who works in Bengaluru, said that he would return to vote for Yeddyurappa. “BJP has done all things here and if we vote for them, we expect infrastructural works to pick up. Rail networks and highway won't improve without them,” he said.

His friend, Kiran, who runs a local business, opined that the anti-incumbency factor could erode a miniscule margin of the votes. “BSY is already a favourite,” he said.

There are some who believe that his fortunes could dip a bit at the hustings, this time around.  

A mobile store owner at the Shikaripura town centre, Maqbool, said, “Yeddyurappa is popular here across communities. Roads, water, electricity are not a major problem. Here, BJP means only Yeddyurappa. But this time it won’t be a clean sweep,” mentioning his son’s performance at the bye-elections.

BSY’s son BY Raghavendra, had won the Shikaripura bye-elections in 2014 with a rather small margin of 6,430 votes following his father’s resignation as MLA.

Elaborating, Maqbool, said, “Lack of jobs is a problem. There are no other issues. People don't have jobs because of corrupt politicians. Besides, a couple of months back, the municipal authorities moved the location of the weekly local market from a place next to the bus stand to two kilometres away.”

This was done by the BJP-run local government, and he claims this has made everyone’s life difficult—not only farmers and buyers (traders), but it has also hurt his business and other local shops.

“People used to come to the weekly market, buy things from here and eat at nearby restaurants. All that has stopped now. Vendors have to come here with their produce and then take an auto to the present marketplace which is away from the bus stop,” he says.

There are also a few who think that the opposition can damage Yeddyurappa’s credentials over “personal corruption”.

Leading the charge is AAP candidate Chandrakanth, a local businessman who is also involved in legal cases against Yeddyurappa.

“Yeddyurappa has over 40 properties in this district alone, which are owned directly by him or his benamis. These are all not due to his hard work but misuse of his political influence. He has laid a concrete road to his farmhouse (owned by his father-in-law) just for his own benefit,” Chandrakanth’s close aide Prakash Konapur said.

“If you count all this, it will exceed his wealth declared in the affidavit,” he added.

“He has gone in for infrastructural works not for benefit of the people, but keeping in mind the kickbacks,” Prakash said, pointing to some failed projects like lift irrigation, which were unscientific and uncalled for.

Habbibulla, who sells flowers and is a Congress supporter, said, “Yeddyurappa used to be a humble man and fought elections asking money from the public for the first few times. But now, he and his son have accumulated public money and haven't done anything for them.”

“Yeddyurappa has built all these schools and colleges in the town but they're all private institutions that only rich people can afford. They have done nothing for the poor,” he added.

Another voter, Dakshayani said, “I think Congress should get a chance this time. Yeddyurappa and his son have not done much. In the past few years, they have only made one park, one cultural centre and one library.”

Inayak, a bike mechanic is rather hopeful for the Congress candidate. “It's going to be a big fight this time, as Congress is fielding a strong candidate. He is the only one who can speak in front of Yeddyurappa and give him a fight.”

Complaining on the health amenities, he said, “There are no good hospitals close by. There's one government hospital but there aren't enough doctors there. For every small thing, they write a note saying it’s an emergency and send us to Shimoga.”

He added, “You can see a long line of pregnant women waiting in a crowded space, getting pushed and shoved around because there is just one doctor. For four years, there has been no radiologist even though there is an X-ray machine.”

But despite all this, an AAP insider following elections in this constituency closely, feels that stopping Yeddyurappa will not be easy.

“He just needs 70,000 votes to win the election. He is a senior politician and he has his ways to ensure this number of voters. He knows what to do where. He does not have to hold a rally to win. These are all done just to create an image for outside people,” he said.

"A divided opposition only helps his cause," he concluded.