The age of monarchies may be long over but sons and dynasties continue to rule the roost in politics in every state and Karnataka is no different. Former CM Siddaramaiah’s son Dr Yathindra struck it rich in the battle for Varuna, his father’s seat in the May 2018 Assembly polls and so did many others cutting across party lines including Ajay Singh, son of former CM late Dharam Singh, Dinesh Gundurao, son of former CM late Gundurao, Basavaraj Bommai, son of another former CM, S.R. Bommai and Kumar Bangarappa, son of former CM late S. Bangarappa who incidentally won against his brother Madhu Bangarappa in Shivamogga. And who can forget H.D. Kumaraswamy and brother Revanna, sons of former CM and PM Deve Gowda?Madhu Bangarappa is once again in the limelight, this time because of the November 3 Shivamogga Lok Sabha bypoll where Madhu as the JD(S) candidate, is arraigned against B.Y. Raghavendra, son of BJP state president and former CM B.S. Yeddyurappa. In fact it will be the battle of the sons with another former CM J.H. Patel’s son, Mahima Patel too entering the fray as the JD(U) candidate. Can Madhu put the loss to his brother Kumar in the Assembly poll behind him and emerge the winner in the David vs Goliath battle against Yeddyurappa, who will virtually be fighting the battle for son Raghavendra? Vinay Madhav profiles the battle for Shivamogga, a land known for its bountiful rains and scenic beauty, which has given birth to many a political prodigy
Shivamogga was once Sarekoppa Bangarappa’s favourite hunting ground, where he built his political fortunes, became CM, MP and then went from party to party finally ending up in the JD(S) before be passed away in 2011. But then there is a saying in Kannada that nothing grows under a banyan tree which has been proven to a great extent in the politics of Shivamogga. Yeddyurappa’s son B.Y. Raghavendra was a MLA and MP but is yet to carve out a niche for himself in state or national politics unlike his redoubtable father and so are Kumar and Madhu Bangarappa or Mahima Patel for that matter.
Bangarappa senior was no ordinary politician , his contemporaries remember him as the tallest backward class champion next only to late Devaraj Urs. He was the undisputed leader of the Idiga community and had an intrinsic knowledge of grassroot politics not to mention the capacity to take his friends and enemies along. He was known for his no-nonsense approach and was a go-getter which both his sons seem to lack along with his sharp political acumen.
In fact Kumar and Madhu Bangarappa’s first love was the Kannada film industry where they both failed to make a mark. While Kumar wanted to become an actor, Madhu set up Akash Audios and when they found that things were not going their way, they quit the industry to follow in their father’s footsteps. There could not be sons so different like Kumar and Madhu, say those close to them. Kumar is an introvert while Madhu is straight forward like his father though he is no go-getter. And both of them do not have the deep knowledge of how politics works at the ground level like their father did and how to operate the system to make it work to their advantage.
The animosity between the brothers is no secret During his five years as legislator, Madhu cleared several Bagair Hukum applications to regularise forest land encroachments but Kumar, soon after becoming MLA, cancelled all of them and ensured that notices were issued to the beneficiaries!
Bangarappa was said to be worried over his ‘pampered’ son Madhu in earlier years but he stood by his father in difficult times and is now the most accepted member of the family. It was Kumar however who made the best of his father’s legacy though political differences prevented him from seeing his father till his death. Many followers of late Bangarappa have not forgiven him for this.
Bangarappa performed his role in grooming son Kumar and ensured his victory from Sorab Assembly seat after which Kumar became Minor Irrigation Minister in the S.M. Krishna government. But then the rift started with Kumar taking independent decisions, which was not to the liking of his father. Things got ugly when Bangarappa wanted to take up the rejuvenation of a tank in Sorab but Kumar wanted it done in Savalanga. The family split down the middle.
In 2004, when Bangarappa decided to join the BJP, Kumar did follow him but when the former CM announced that Madhu would be the candidate for his seat, Kumar returned to the Congress in 48 hours and even won the election.
Many expected the brothers to patch up after Bangarappa died in 2011 but there was no let-up in the feud with Madhu as the JD(S) candidate, defeating Kumar, now in the BJP, in 2013 and Kumar taking sweet revenge in 2018.
Can Madhu emerge from the shadows of his father and carve a niche for himself in state politics? The odds are heavily stacked against him in the coming bypoll for Yeddyurappa continues to tower over Shivamogga politics but there are some comforting factors. For one, the JD(S) had finished a close second in four of the eight Assembly segments in Shivamogga Parliament constituency while its coalition partner, the Congress did not fare badly in seven constituencies. Going by poll arithmetic, it should have been advantage the coalition if the votes of the JD(S) and Congress were put together and more so when Madhu's defeat in the Assembly election was mainly because the Congress candidate took away the minority and Madivala community votes.
But political equations have rapidly changed in the past six months and it remains to be seen if Madhu can garner all the votes cast for him and the Congress candidate in the May polls.
Not that the wind is blowing strongly for the BJP and Mr Yeddyurappa this time too. There are voices of discontent against the former CM in Shivamogga and more so after senior leader K.S. Eshwarappa raised the banner of revolt against him some time ago. But one cannot wish away the fact that the veteran leader had bagged a massive 6.06 lakh votes in the previous parliament poll against the 4.83 lakh votes of the Congress and JD(S) candidates put together.
The ‘Mahima’ factor
This issue could affect the BJP’s chances with J.H. Patel’s son likely to take away a chunk of Lingayat votes which otherwise, would have easily gone to the saffron party. The poll may not have much of a bearing on political fortunes at the state or national level with parliament elections due again after seven months in May 2019. But it has become a matter of prestige for all candidates in the fray, all sons of former CMs and from political families which have had a huge bearing on state politics. When sons of political titans clash, they kick up the dust like never before raking up umpteen controversies, splitting loyalties and adding raw emotion to the poll campaign. Shivamogga is bracing for a battle of nerves like never before, where lineage is being put to test and the winner could be anyone’s guess.