With a focus on redeeming itself in seats that it lost in previous elections, the BJP in poll-bound Karnataka is hoping to wrest a majority of the constituencies in Ballari from the Congress.
On Thursday, 23 February, it was Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s turn to turbocharge the party’s poll campaign in the Kalyana Karnataka region’s Ballari — a district where former BJP leader and mining baron Janardhana Reddy and his new party have thrown a spanner in the party’s plans.
Shah participated in BJP’s Vijay Sankalpa Samavesha held at the erstwhile Sandur, a Scheduled Tribe (ST) reserved Assembly seat, on Thursday. The Assembly segment is currently represented by Congress MLA E Tukaram.
The event was Amit Shah’s first campaign event in the Kalyana Karnataka region. He has previously campaigned in Vokkaliga-dominated Mandya, Billava-Ediga dominated Udupi, and Lingayat-dominant Hubballi and Belagavi.
“In the 2018 Assembly election, the BJP had emerged as the single-largest party but fell short by a few seats to form a government. This led to a power play between Congress and the JD(S) and corruption in Karnataka,” he said in the Schedule Castes (SC) and ST dominated Congress stronghold.
He urged the people to give the BJP a full majority in the Karnataka Assembly polls 2023.
South First opinion poll gives Congress edge in 2023 Karnataka Assembly election
BJP wants Ballari, Congress stays strong
A decade-and-a-half ago, in 2008, the BJP had breached Congress’ Fortress Ballari by winning nine out of 10 Assembly seats.
However, the BJP’s joy was short-lived as the Karnataka Lokayukta exposed a multi-crore mining scam and detailed the involvement of the then BJP minister G Janardhan Reddy and his brothers.
Siddaramaiah capitalised on the Karnataka Lokayukta report on the mining scam by the Reddy brothers to bring electoral dividends to the Congress.
In the 2013 Assembly polls, Congress regained lost ground in Ballari by winning five out of 10 seats. The BJP, a divided house at that time, had to settle for just one seat.
Sriramulu, now a minister in the Basavaraj Bommai government, had floated his own party, the Badavara Shramikara Raitara Congress (BSRC) in 2013. His party managed to win the Ballari (ST) and Kampli Assembly seats.
Related: Why Janardhana Reddy wants to party alone in election season
However, a year later, in 2014, Sriramulu dissolved his party and joined hands with the BJP and went on to win the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
In the 2018 Assembly polls, the Congress managed to gain an upper hand over the BJP as it emerged victorious in six seats and the BJP in four.
With barely two months left for the 2023 Karnataka Assembly polls, the national political parties are busy wooing the voters in order to regain their hold on the “Republic of Ballari”.
There are five Assembly seats each in Ballari and Vijayanagara districts. Of the five seats in Ballari district, Kampli, Sirguppa, Sandur and Ballari are reserved for STs. Whereas, in Vijayanagara, Hagaribommanahalli and Hadagalli are reserved for the SCs.
Among the 10 Assembly segments six seats are reserved for SC/ST in united Ballari district.
Related: Alarm bells in BJP as key leader Sriramulu bats for J Reddy
Janardhan Reddy headache
Janardhan Reddy’s newly-floated Kalyana Rajya Pragati Paksha (KRPP) has become a new headache for the ruling BJP government as it is being predicted that it might lure away some of the BJP vote.
Reddy will contest from Koppal’s Gangavathi Assembly segment, which shares a border with Ballari district.
Janardhan Reddy has already announced that his wife Arun Lakshmi will be contesting from Ballari City. It is currently represented by his brother Somashekara Reddy.
Ballari City is likely to witness an electoral fight between members of the family.
On the rumours of BJP MLAs Somashekhara Reddy and Karunakar Reddy joining his brother’s party, a close aide to Janardhana Reddy told South First on condition of anonymity: “There is a family dispute between Reddy and his two brothers. As of now, Janardhana Reddy has not held any talks with his brothers over joining the KRPP. However, talks are underway to rope in other influential leaders from the region.”
Reddy has announced that he will field candidates in most of the Assembly seats in Kalyana and Central Karnataka. He is likely to field candidates in all the seats of Ballari and Vijayapura districts.
Political commentator Rajendra Patil told South First: “BJP will definitely face the heat of Reddy’s new party in the upcoming Assembly polls. Reddy and his team will make an effort to corner their traditional votes in most of the seats. It will be intriguing to see how BJP will tackle all its hurdles in Ballari.”
“It is an important elections for the BJP. It wants to regain power in Ballari. However, it is not as easy as it looks because Congress has also gained prominence in the region since 2013,” added Patil.