KARWAR: Not very long ago, the word ‘politics’ infused abundant energy into a conversation held in Ballari. Today it evokes little response. Nowhere is the uniqueness of the corona times illustrated more pointedly than in politics here. No verbal histrionics, no allegations, and counter-allegations. Covid-19 has suppressed even the most enthusiastic political speakers.
In Ballari, over a hundred people have died and about 20,000 people tested positive. The issues that fed the regional politics -- illegal mining, forest encroachment, industrial land allocations, mining relief and rehabilitation funds -- are still green, but the politicians who would harp on them have gone into ‘hibernation’. Simply put, they all are following the ‘stay home’ and ‘social distancing’ norms. Even their supporters don’t seem to be crowding their houses.
The leaders have limited themselves to their constituency or under treatment for Covid-19. The family members of Health Minister B Sriramulu who have tested positive have been admitted to a hospital in Bengaluru. Forest Minister Anand Singh who has been discharged from hospital after recovering from Covid-19 stays put in his house.
Bhima Naik, MLA, has limited his political ambit to Raichur, Ballari, Koppal Milk Union; Tukaram, MLA, is staying in his Sandur constituency where the pandemic is at its peak. Ballari City MLA Somashekar Reddy has limited himself to issuing a statement against JSW ‘for failing to check the pandemic’. Even their rivals like Suresh Babu, former MLA, Anil Lad, former MLA, and V S Ugrappa, former MP, have been missing in action.
The latest is Gali Janardhan Reddy, the former BJP leader and mining baron. He was scheduled to visit Ballari on Sunday. But Reddy cancelled his trip after announcing that he had tested positive. Usually just the news of his arrival brings his supporters in hordes to his house ‘Kuteera’. But this time, the news hardly evoked any response, thanks to the virus.
This shows the kind of grip the virus is having over people and how the politically busy Ballari has transformed during the pandemic. Ballari has always been an epicentre of state politics. The political developments here have drawn media attention since decades. For instance, the straight contest between AICC president Sonia Gandhi and Sushma Swaraj in 1999, the rise of Reddy brothers in early 2000, the formation of the first BJP Government in 2008, the Padayatra of Siddaramaiah against ‘Illegal Mining’ in 2010. Congress return to power, party hopping by Anand Singh and Bhima Naik in 2017-18, rebellion of Congress MLAs and race for portfolios in 2018 — all these had a Ballari connection, which hogged the limelight.