It’s official. The Bharatiya Janata Party’s chief ministerial candidate BS Yediyurappa will face a common opposition candidate in former chief minister Sarekoppa Bangarappa over a fierce contest for Shikaripura assembly seat in Shimoga district.
On Friday, Congress nominee Navalesh Chandrappa withdrew his nomination papers and pledged to campaign for the Samajwadi Party leader, turning it into a head-to-head confrontation rather than a triangular battle of ballots. The Janata Dal (S) has confirmed that it will not field its nominee in this constituency on grounds that it holds Bangarappa in high esteem. These three parties have struck a secret pact in order to restrict the BJP leader to his home turf as well as team up for his defeat. They plan to leverage the advantage that the SP leader has in this seat, which incidentally comes under his Parliament constituency, Shimoga.
Bangarappa had polled a lead of 11,000 votes here when he won a bypoll to Lok Sabha, on SP ticket, in 2005. A year earlier, the former chief minister moved from the Congress to the BJP and was elected to Parliament from the same place. Besides, his presence in the BJP helped the party win a significant number of seats along the coastal belt and in Malnad region.
Though senior BJP leaders, including Yediyurappa have accused these parties of arriving at a secret pact, none was forthcoming about it till today, the last day for withdrawal of nominations for second phase of elections in Karnataka.
PCC president Mallikarjun Kharge merely said that his party candidate will withdraw the papers and support Bangarappa.
Sources in the Congress said the flamboyant SP leader is likely to visit neighbouring constituencies in Shimoga district and drum up support for their candidates as a gesture of goodwill.
However, leaders in the BJP were cock-sure of Yediyurappa’s success at his home turf and denied reports that he could enter the fray at another segment during the third phase of polling scheduled May 22. “Bangarappa is ill and cannot even tour the place, so where’s the question of a contest,” they asked.