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Rediff.com  » News » PIX: CM aspirant Siddaramiah needs to win big at Varuna

PIX: CM aspirant Siddaramiah needs to win big at Varuna

Last updated on: April 16, 2013 14:08 IST

CM aspirant Siddaramiah needs to WIN BIG at Varuna

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Vicky Nanjappa in Varuna

Vicky Nanjappa tries to gauge the sentiments at politically significant Varuna constituency in southern Karnataka, from where Congress leader Siddharamaiah hopes to win big to bolster his chief ministerial prospects.

Leader of the Opposition in the Karnataka assembly Siddaramaiah says clearly that he is an aspirant for the post of chief minister if the Congress comes to power in the southern state.

He is contesting the upcoming elections from the Varuna constituency near Mysore and all eyes are on this battle.

The Varuna constituency was carved out following a delimitation exercise in 2008. Siddaramaiah had won the elections five times in a row from Chamundeshwari. However, in 2008, he contested from Varuna and won the elections there.

Siddaramaiah may have the last laugh this time around as well, but many believe that he will be triumphant only because the people of this constituency want him to become the next chief minister. Since he is a CM aspirant, all parties are trying to ensure that he is defeated, and the one who is leading this battle is former chief minister B S Yeddyurappa who has fielded a Lingayat candidate of his newly-formed Karnataka Janatha Party.

Varuna has in all 188,305 voters, of which 96,826 are men while 91,479 are women. The Lingayats have the highest vote share at 55,000 which is followed by the 50,000 Dalit votes.

The Kuruba community, to which Siddaramaiah belongs, too has around 38,000 votes. The Vokkaligas have 16,000 and the Muslims 5,000 votes. The rest are divided between the Valmiki Nayak, Uppara and Vishwakarma communities.

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Image: Congress leader Siddharamaiah campaigns in Varuna
Photographs: Madhusudhan S R

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'If I become CM, it's as good as all of you becoming CMs'

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Varuna is a rural and peaceful constituency. It has only been in the news because of Siddaramaiah and there is nothing significant that has been ever reported from here. One cannot consider the constituency to be fully developed. The major concerns of people here are irrigation, roads and drinking water.

Siddaramaiah, who has already began his campaign, has a huge fan following in Varuna without a doubt. Clad in a dhoti and kurta, the Congress leader has been attending meetings and also mingling with the people of his constituency.

He tells his voters, "Vote for me and vote big. If you elect me then we will have a CM from this constituency. I shall make this appeal in all the 15 constituencies falling under Mysore so that I shall have additional support. I have to focus on the rest of the state as well, but always remember -- if I become the CM it is as good as all of you becoming chief ministers".

Siddaramaiah's campaign has largely been managed by his son Rakesh. Siddaramaiah is a star campaigner for the Congress and he is well aware that he cannot spend a lot of time at his constituency. This is when his son Rakesh comes to the rescue.

In fact Rakesh has commenced the campaign two weeks in advance and has been meeting with the voters even before his father had filed the nomination.

Rakesh is optimistic and says that his father will win easily. "Everyone here loves him a lot and we have no doubt that they will vote for him in large numbers," he says.

It is evident that Rakesh is the heir apparent since he has been more in the constituency than his father. Even during the non election time, Rakesh spends five days a week working at the constituency.

Siddaramaiah may be victorious but he has several hurdles ahead in his own constituency. He may be able to bank on all other voters, but there is going to be a split in the Lingayat votes for sure.

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Image: Congress workers cheer for Siddharamaiah during a campaign rally in Varuna
Photographs: Madhusudhan S R

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'It will be a record performance'

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Yeddyurappa has fielded his man friday Siddalingaswamy, and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has gone with Mahendra. Both these candidates are Lingayats and will look to break into the 55,000 strong vote bank.

Siddaramaiah's other problem is that he needs to win big. If he is a CM aspirant then he has to win convincingly. He cannot afford a performance where he had won by a margin of 257 votes from his earlier constituency (Chamundeshwari).

However, Siddu, as he is popularly known, is optimistic.

"I am politician and we never are pessimistic people", he says with a smile on his face, adding, "I will win comfortably".

When asked whether he was less confident about Varuna and hence had mooted contesting from another constituency, he says that's not true. "I have full faith that I will better my last time's margin of 19,000 votes. It will be a record performance".

The people of Varuna are, however, eager to see a man from their constituency becoming a CM. They feel that their constituency, which is rural in nature, will be highly developed and would be on the map if they have CM from their constituency. This thought could be a game changer for both the KJP and the BJP, which is hell bent on defeating Siddaramaiah.

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Image: Siddharamaiah greeting people at his constituency in Varuna during a campaign procession
Photographs: Madhusudhan S R

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Lingayats in Varuna might not back BJP or KJP

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The Lingayats have known to be loyal to candidates from their community. However in Varuna the opinion about a Lingayat candidate is divided.

The Lingayat vote bank is convinced that both the KJP or BJP would not come to power, and hence it is better to go with Siddaramaiah who has a better chance.

The KJP and the BJP, however, believe that Siddaramaiah will be defeated. BJP workers in Varuna tell rediff.com that there is no indication to show that he would win.

"During the Mysore zilla panchayat elections, the Congress failed badly," a BJP worker said. However, what the BJP is not saying out loud is that they expect the KJP to do the damage.

Meanwhile, KJP's Siddalingaswamy has been thrown into the poll fray for the first time. He is known more to be a Yeddyurappa man than having any credentials of his own.

Yeddyurappa has marked several revenge constituencies and fielded his favourites and Varuna is one among them. Yeddyurappa will campaign extensively for him in Varuna.

Siddalingaswamy, however, is not deterred by the jibes he gets from the Congress workers. "They had called me a nobody and even Siddaramaiah had called me a non-entity. He cannot take me lightly. I have worked slowly but very hard and I am not an unknown face among the voters", he tells rediff.com.

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Image: A Congress campaign rally in Varuna
Photographs: Madhusudhan S R

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An interesting battle on the cards

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Varuna undoubtedly is an interesting battle to watch. There is expected to be a lot at stake over here and this has awakened the Election Commission of India into appointing a special observer at Varuna. A special expenditure observer will track the spending by each candidate who has been given an upper limit of Rs 16 lakh.

The EC decided to appoint an observer due to several complaints of malpractice and taking into consideration the sensitivity of the constituency.

Political observers say that the verdict for Varuna would be in favour of Siddaramaiah, but it is very important that he should win by a huge margin.

Moreover, he needs to win all the 15 seats from the Mysore belts, since this will better his chances of claiming the post of CM.

 


Image: BJP's candidate Mahendra greets supporters during a campaign rally in Varuna.
Photographs: Madhusudhan S R

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