Bengaluru: As Chikkaballapura assembly constituency, located not too far from Bengaluru, gears up for a tough bypoll battle, the main issues confronting voters are those pertaining to the setting up of a new medical college and whether enough development has happened in the district during the tenure of disqualified MLA Dr K. Sudhakar, now the BJP candidate?
It is pretty difficult to gauge the trends with most voters keeping their cards close to their chest for now.
But what is evident is a sharp polarisation of castes in the SC dominated constituency which remains parched and suffers from a perennial water shortage.
In the assembly polls in 2018, Dr Sudhakar, then the Congress candidate, had won by a comfortable margin of 31,000 votes against the JD(S) candidate Mr Bacche Gowda. His massive lead was attributed to the fact that there was a consolidation of AHINDA (a loose coalition of dalits, minorities and backward classes) votes including over 20,000 minority and 15,000 Kuruba votes.
Equations have however changed this time as minority votes are not expected to go to Dr Sudhakar in his new avatar as the BJP candidate nor can he claim monopoly to the Kuruba votes with his former mentor and Congress strongman Siddaramaiah now on the opposite side. Apart from Dr Sudhakar, the other prominent candidates in the fray are Mr Anjanappa of the Congress and Mr Radhakrishna of the JD(S). Sources say that two issues will decide the voting pattern in the constituency. Firstly, people in Chikkaballapura prefer a candidate who will not interfere in their business activity. Secondly, networking and reaching out to voters at the grassroot level plays a major role in deciding voting patterns. With this being the situation, Dr Sudhakar obviously enjoys a advantage compared to the Congress and JD(S) candidates who are outsiders to the constituency. Besides having the ability to play the son of the soil card, he can boast of a good network of supporters during the election which is augmented by the fact that he has also received the backing of the RSS too.
Not to be outdone, the Congress candidate Mr Anjanappa too is reaching out to people at the grassroots and working silently, while the JD(S) hopes to garner the votes it won in the previous election and also get a chunk of the minority votes. This has made the Chikkaballapura contest a triangular one as all three candidates belong to the Vokkaliga community. Apart from minority and Kuruba votes, there are over 45000 Vokkaligas and 30,000 other backward classes while SC/SCs constitute the largest chunk with 60,000 votes. There is also the Balajiga community which dominates business in the district and tends to vote en bloc. This community could play a decisive role with 30,000 votes.
Dr Sudhakar has been going great guns from the onset with the help of his network and the support of the Balajiga community. However, the Congress too has its strengths to fall back on and can rely on the AHINDA community votes. A point of concern for the Congress however is the possibility of the JD(S) candidate garnering the party's traditional votes and also grabbing a chunk of the minority votes. This would lead to a head-on contest between the JD(S) and BJP candidates.
Since Congress candidate Mr Anjinappa is a close associate of former minister Mr D.K. Shivakumar, Congress members are not sure whether he would be able to secure the full support of supporters of former CM Siddaramaiah in the last leg of the poll campaign. If Siddaramaiah supporters pull the rug from under the feet of the Congress candidate and support Dr Sudhakar instead, it is going to be a difficult task for Mr Anjanappa. However the possibility of the Congress and JD(S) arriving at a silent understanding to mobilise their votes in favour of one candidate and defeat Dr Sudhakar cannot be ruled out, added sources.