Who will be Agastya, Vatapi? Nothing caste in stone in Badami

Badami is one seat where Siddaramaiah is sure to feel he is in the driver's seat.

The quiet heritage town of Badami in Bagalkote district has suddenly shot into the limelight after reports that Chief Minister Siddaramaiah is all set to make it his second seat after Chamundeshwari in Mysuru –just to make sure he had a second seat to fall back on in case all did not go well in his home terrain. And so Badami - where the Puranas say the wicked asura Vatapi was killed by Sage Agastya - could well be the seat of the CM with the Kuruba majority in the constituency sure to plump for him.

Formerly known as Vatapi, Badami was the capital of the Badami Chalukyas and is famous for its rock cut temples besides the famous Agastya lake. With friends turned foes like former Union Minister Srinivas Prasad of the BJP and former Mysuru MP H. Vishwanath (JD-S) joining hands to make life difficult for him in Chamundeshwari, it was but natural for Siddaramaiaah to scout for safer options knowing the bitter experience of his compatriot, Dr G. Parameshwar, who lost out in the CM race after he was defeated in Koratagere in 2013.

But will the two-seat gamble go down well with the electorate elsewhere in the state is the big question with his rivals and Congressmen too wondering why Siddaramaiah has suddenly developed cold feet about contesting from his favourite constituency. SHYAM SUNDAR VATTAM analyses why Badami is a better seat for the CM than Chamundeshwari, where a defeat could virtually seal his political future considering that he has enough rivals in the Congress waiting to see him make a humiliating exit.

In the community cauldron which Karnataka has become ahead of the May 12 Assembly polls, anyone would know that this is one seat pretty safe for a Kuruba community strongman like Siddaramaiah, compared to Vokkaliga dominated Chamundeshwari, where he is facing a strong Vokkaliga candidate- G.T. Deve Gowda. The districts of Bagalkote, Vijayapura and Koppal have a big base of Kuruba voters who have always made it a point to send their community leaders to Vidhana Soudha. So while sitting Congress MLA from Badami, Mr B.B. Chimmanakatti, also a Kuruba, has been told to move aside for the CM, the wait for the Congress high command’s decision on allowing Siddaramaiah to contest from a second seat, is proving agonisingly long for everyone’s comfort, Congressmen included, much to the glee of the opposition.

Badami is one seat where Siddaramaiah is sure to feel he is in the driver’s seat. The Kuruba voters have always backed their community leaders to the hilt and have undergone a political awakening after Siddaramaiah became CM. He has done his bit launching several schemes for their welfare in the last five years which has helped him win the hearts of people of his community.


And how did the Badami ‘coup’ in which two other Kuruba leaders-B.B. Chimmanakatti and Dr Devraj Patil-may have to make the big sacrifice, happen? The CM had almost decided to contest from his old seat, Chamundeshwari, to help his son, Dr Yathindra make his political debut from Varuna, a seat Siddaramaiah had won easily in 2013. But then came the big jolt-the CM will all his political experience could sense the undercurrents in Chamundeshwari where the JD(S) had vowed to defeat him at any cost.

The Congress list underwent a sudden shakeup with Siddaramaiah calling up KPCC President Dr Parameshwar and telling him to put on hold the issue of the 'B' form to Dr Devaraj Patil, the official Congress candidate for Badami. Sitting MLA Chimmanakatti could not stop trying for the safe seat but was firmly told that Siddaramaiah was likely to contest from Badami. It is learnt that in return, Chimmanakatti will be nominated to the Legislative Council in the coming months.

While the BJP is yet to declare its candidate and is waiting for the Congress to make the big announcement, the JD(S) has given the ticket to Hanumanth Mavinmarad, a Lingayat, whose chances of wooing the Kuruba voters are pretty remote. Siddaramaiah also enjoys a good rapport with Kuruba legislators in neighbouring districts who are sure to use their influence to convince voters of the community to support the CM. And not without reason for they would be the beneficiaries if the CM’s constituency is in their vicinity. Three or four relatives of Chimmanakatti, who were strong contenders for the ticket, have backed out from the race and have reportedly decided to work for the victory of Siddaramaiah.

A local leader told Deccan Chronicle that people here were not too bothered about other issues except the caste or community of their leaders. Due to this, several legislators have been winning from their constituencies three to four times leaving no scope for the emergence of new leaders. It’s a manifestation of the feudal mindset which still prevails in large parts of north Karnataka where only leaders with absolute control over their community, win elections.

Would Ballari BJP MP and popular ST leader B Sriramulu have succeeded in swinging it for the BJP if he had been given the Badami seat? Sources say his victory prospects would be bleak as there are few Scheduled Tribe votes in the constituency. State BJP President B.S. Yeddyurappa too would have faced an uphill task as the Lingayat /Veerashaiva votes would be divided between the JD(S) and BJP leaving Siddaramaiah or any other Kuruba candidate for that matter, a clear winner. History proves that the Kurubas, Dalits and Muslims are not known to vote for the saffron party.


( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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