MYSURU/CHAMARAJANAGAR: As the die is cast for the general elections to be held in two phases on April 18 and 23 in the state, Chamarajanagar (SC reserve seat) is back in the limelight for many reasons.
A prominent Dalit leader of old Mysuru region V Sreenivas Prasad is pulling out all stops to ensure that the BJP, the party he is now associated with, opens its account.
The Congress is looking for a hat-trick score this time with sitting MP R Dhruvanarayan, also a dalit, having won the constituency twice in a row from 2009. Dhruva, the moniker he is mostly known as, enjoys the backing of former chief minister Siddaramaiah, a political bete noire of Prasad.
Ever since the election fever set in, rumours are agog that the election to the particular seat will be nothing but an extension of the recent assembly elections held in the state in May 2018, where it turned out to be a showdown between the same arch rivals — Prasad and Siddaramaiah. However, Prasad managed to gain an upper hand by ensuring the victory of his son-in-law B Harshavardhan from Nanjangud.
The BJP higher ups want to field Prasad again, as he had represented the same Lok Sabha seat for five terms. While the latest news is that Prasad has made up his mind to take the plunge, a majority of his supportersare waiting for the official announcement. Earlier, the buzz was that, whoever be the candidate, Prasad was entrusted with the task of making inroads into the Congress fort.
However, it’s not an easy task, with Congress winning a majority of the elections ever since the constituency was carved out of dual member Mysore seat in 1962. The maiden election from this seat was won by S M Siddaiah of the Indian National Congress.
The grand old party continued its winning streak in 1967 and 1971 too with Siddaiah retaining the seat. While in 1977, B Rachaiah was elected on Congress ticket, the change in candidate in 1980, however, did not change the winnability of the party as Prasad won his maiden election. Since then, there was no looking back for Prasad, who won back to back elections — 1984, 1989 and 1991. However, he lost the election in 1996, when he contested as an independent and was reduced to a third slot. A Siddaraju of the Janata Dal had emerged the winner.
Though he joined JD(S) later, Siddaraju managed to trounce Prasad again in 1998. Though Prasad had returned to Congress by that time, he could not win back the lost citadel. He deserted Congress again and joined Samata Party and contested under JD(U) from the same seat in 1999 and also managed to win again. However, he fell out with JD(U) and joined JD(S), only to field his relative Shivanna from Chamarajangar seat to the parliament and also ensured his victory.
Once friends, now foes
Prasad, who was minister during the chief ministership of Siddaramaiah, was dropped from the cabinet in June 2016. A sulking Prasad also put in his papers as MLA (from Nanjangud SC reserve seat) and jumped ship to the saffron party. To cash in on the strong dalit backing of Prasad, BJP decided to pit him again in the by-elections with Prasad terming it as a question of his ‘swabhiman’ (self- respect). However, Prasad suffered a severe drubbing at the hands of Congress’ Kalale Keshavamurthy in the high voltage by-election.