In the bypoll battle between independent candidate B Sriramulu, who quit the BJP after losing ministership, and BJP candidate Gadi Lingappa, Congress candidate Ram Prasad has been put in the shade.
But in the end he may turn out to be the dark horse because the split votes may help him.
The election, to take place on Wednesday, is expected to influence the course of developments in Karnataka politics, which has been considerably stirred by the arrest of mining baron and former minister Janardhana Reddy, to whom Sriramulu owes allegiance.
If Sriramulu wins, the idea of a new regional party will gain currency. And if he doesn't, the Reddy brothers - Janardhana and Karunakara - who too had been dropped along with Sriramulu, will try to topple the government with 15 MLAs from the BJP.
Sriramulu is appearing weak after former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa, following his release from jail in the illegal denotification of land case, jumped into the election campaign for the BJP.
Yeddyurappa, a Lingayat, is in a strong position to secure for the BJP candidate the 15% votes of the caste in the Bellary rural constituency, traditionally a Congress stronghold.
The ST votes, 14%, will be for Sriramulu, a Valmik, even though the other candidates are also from the same caste.
The 25% votes of the other backward classes, scheduled castes and others will be split among Lingappa, Sriramulu and Ram Prasad.
The 25% Muslim votes will be crucial in this election because the community strongly supported Sriramulu in the last election, in which he got 53% of the votes.
However, political experts say there is hope for the Congress candidate. Congress leaders including former chief ministers SM Krishna and Veerappa Moily, now Union external affairs minister and Union corporate affairs minister, respectively; Union labour minister Mallikarjuna Kharge; and Siddaramiah and others are exhibiting unanimity this time.