At this former seat of the Hoysala empire; the positioning of dummy-candidates, caste-factor and coalition politics may ultimately shed-some light on the winnability of the candidates. Generally understood as the home turf of the Janata Dal (Secular), this time both the Congress and the BJP intend to breach the political landscape at the Hassan district.
While in 2013, the JD(S) won at Hassan, Holenarasipur, Arsikere, Sakleshpur, Shravanabelagola with a comfortable margin, it was largely attributed to the placement of 'non-serious' candidates by other political parties. "The BJP has always shied away from the region, whereas the Congress in a typical bonhomie to its 'secural' political brethren has satisfied its victory with Belur, Arkalgud constituency. Frankly, there was no serious threat to the JD(s) - the glaring victory margin of 20,000 - 30,000 to JD(S) speak for themselves. No one can win with such numbers," Manjunath, a local political analyst says.
However, in the backdrop of the ensuing cold-war between JD(S) Chief HD Deve Gowda and Chief Minister Siddaramiah, the Congress party at the outset of the 2018 polls has redirected their energy to Hassan. Moreover, the BJP, which successfully sunk-in its 'Hindutva' ideologies among the local youth, now looks over its local leaders to encash it.
At the Holenarsipur Assembly constituency, it is learnt that CM Siddaramiah is personally overseeing the entry of the president of the Government Employees’ Association, Bagur Manje Gowda. The ploy to deploy Manje Gowda, who also holds a key role in the Rajya Vokkaligara Sangha and is also a native of Hassan, is solely to unseat H. D. Revanna - son of HD Deve Gowda. According to a party leader, Manje Gowda, who is presently employed in the Transport department, is financially bankable, commands good people management skills and is close to the community leaders. "Also there is an anti-incumbency factor, Revanna has got elected over four-times from the same constituency, this will definitely add to the advantage of the Congress," a local Congress cadre says. Manje Gowda is yet to formally resign from his post. A loss at Holenarsipur, which besides 1989 (G. Puttaswamy Gowda - Congress) has only seen HD Devegowda contesting - will cause a moral dent to the first family of the JD(S).
On the other hand, at Hassan, where sitting MLA H.S. Prakash is seeking a renomination - the BJP is likely to place Preetham Gowda, a local businessman, who in the last four-years has struck a cord with the residents through his social service initiatives for garbage disposal and water distribution.
Although, there are two other aspirants from the BJP - Agile Yogish and Kattaya Ashok - who are said to be close to BJP CM Candidate BS Yeddyurappa. But, Manjunath adds, anything less than Preetham Gowda, can be understood as a dummy candidate placed by the BJP and coalition politics at play.
At Sakleshpur, businessman and BJP leader Narve Somashekhar is all set to take on incumbent JD(S) MLA HK Kumaraswamy. Meanwhile, Congress sitting MLA of Arkalgodu A Manju is likely to contest in the polls again and the BJP is said to level the fight, this time setting-up retired IAS officer Ramegowda as its candidate - who has quite a fan following in the region.
Another interesting political match will take place at the Belur constituency, where Congress intends to give the ticket to Keerthana, widow of late MLA YN Rudresh Gowda, who then despite being from the Gowda community, won over the Lingayat and Scheduled Caste dominated constituency. However, if the party does not put to rest the dissent raised, former Sakaleshpur MLA HM Vishwanath - who also claims to be an aspirant to polls, it will directly reap benefit for its opponents.
At Arsikere, JD(S) sitting MLA KM Shivalingegowda will be in a turf war with BJP candidate Arun Somanna, son of former BJP Minister V Somanna.
Shravanabelagola (Channarayapattana) will witness a duel between JD(S) MLA CN Balakrishna and the Congress candidate. However, it is learnt that the Congress has yet to narrow down its selection between State Okkaliga Association Director Jattenahalli Ramachandra and APMC director M Shankar.
Both the Congress and BJP are yet to declare their candidates however, that has not stopped the 'wannabes’ from their political campaign.
Prior to the declaration of the model code of conduct, candidates of various parties tried their best to sway gullible voters in their favor, from home-delivery of roasted chicken by a candidate at Sakleshpur to his constituents to bearing sponsporship at local sporting events.
In the backdrop of speculation of a pre-poll alliance between BJP-JDS, party cadres feel that the BJP may place dummy candidates in its seats like Hassan, Sakleshpur and Arkalgodu, whereas the Congress is poised to overthrow the JD(S) legacy in the region.
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