DAINIK NATION BUREAU
The Congress has finally managed to regain its erstwhile stronghold of Ballari Lok Sabha constituency after nearly 15 years, signalling the diminishing clout of the Reddy brothers in the mine rich district.
Storming BJP’s Ballari bastion, Congress’ V S Ugrappa scored a resounding victory defeating his rival J Shantha by amargin of 2,43,161 votes.
Shanta is the sister of B Sriramulu, who had given up the seat after being elected to the state assembly in the May polls.
The mine rich Ballari, over which mining barons Reddy brothers once had a vice-like grip, had remained a BJP stronghold since 2004.
Sriramulu is considered a close confidant of Janardhana Reddy, but the BJP had distanced itself from the mining baron in the May assembly polls.
TheCongress’ decision to field Ugrappa to take on Shanthahad sparked the “outsider versus insider” debate, as thethree-time party MLC, though belonging to the Nayaka (Valmiki)community which is dominant in Ballari, originally belongs to Pavagada in Tumakuru district.
But, according to party insiders, along with caste factors, fluency in Telugu, his clean image and his protests against illegal mining in the district during the BJP regime in the past, helped the party in the perception battle.
Also, the constituency is not new to outsiders contesting polls, as Congress top leader Sonia Gandhi and now External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had a face-off during the 1999 Lok Sabha polls, they said.
There are multiple reasons that is said to have contributed to Congress’ win and BJP loss in Ballari.
The Congress is seen to have had a well calculated campaign strategy under the leadership of senior minister D KShivakumar, that saw several coalition leaders and ministers, including Siddaramaiah and former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda campaigning.
On the BJP’s side, the party was depending solely on Sriramulu with its leaders reportedly not taking a wholeheartedplunge into the campaign.
Sources say non-involvement of Reddy brothers, especially Janardhana Reddy, who is barred from entering Ballari district in an illegal mining case,and BJP’sinability to invest in men and material like in the pastaffected the party which was not the case with the Congress.
The bypoll result also reflects the assembly poll outcome trend with Congress then having won six of the eight seats, reflecting diminishing influence of the mighty Reddy brothers.
The brothers, whose stock soared during the iron ore export boom, had played a key role in installing the BJP’s first government in the south in 2008.
At the height of their influence, the Reddy troika — two of whom were ministers and the third Somashekara Reddy thechairman of the Karnataka Milk Federation –were often accusedof running the BJP government, before their clout waned.
So complete was the sway of their mining cartel’s stranglehold on the region’s politics that it had prompted the then Lokayukta Santosh Hegde to refer to the then Bellary (nowBallari) district as “the Republic of Bellary.”
Janardhana Reddy’s recent purported remarksabout the death of former chief minister Siddaramaiah’s son that triggered outrage, is said to have alsocontributed to dent the BJP’s prospects.
In an interview to a local news channel, Reddy purportedly referred to the death of Siddaramaiah’s son as “God’s punishment”, as he accused the Congress leader of keeping him away from his children by sending him to jail for four years, by allegedly misusing his Chief Minister’s office.
Janardhana Reddy has been barred from entering Ballari, in accordance with his bail conditions in the illegal mining case.
He was camping near Molakalmuru in Chitradurga district from where he made attempts to reach out to people of Ballari in favour of Shantha, purportedly in his personal capacity.
BJP had distanced itself from the mining baron in the May assembly polls with party president Amit Shah making theparty position clear.PTI