Retired IAS officer K Shivaram of the JD(S) may be the last one to enter the election fray in Bijapur constituency, but he is certainly making his presence felt.
Several people, particularly a section of youngsters belonging to scheduled castes and tribes, have been showing ‘interest’ in him.
This subdued yet interesting development is steering this border constituency towards a triangular fight and it seems to be headed for a photo finish.
Till the last date for filing nominations, it had appeared to be a two-way fight between sitting MP Ramesh Jigajinagi of the BJP and Prakash Rathod of the Congress, as in 2009.
Jigajinagi, who is seeking a re-election to Lok Sabha for the fifth time — he was the MP from Chikodi thrice and once from Bijapur — is an old warhorse. For quite a few, he has been a ‘lucky’ politician.
“More than his image and personal efforts, it was the political situation of the day that helped him win election after election,’’ said Parashuram Patil of Shindhagi taluk.
While he sailed through during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s time, riding a BJP wave, he won the 2009 elections as Lingayats were behind Yeddyurappa then, Patil added.
But, for the first time, the situation appears to be challenging for him on three counts. Firstly, the Congress has seen a revival in the constituency as it has seven MLAs in the constituency, though the bickering among them still exists.
Secondly, the Lingayats who supported the BJP in the past are divided between the saffron party and the Congress.
Thirdly, Shivaram is likely to cut into Jigajinagi’s vote bank, mainly consisting of Madigas (to which he belongs to) and Chalawadis (Shivaram’s caste).
But all said and done, the ‘Narendra Modi wave’ is equally strong here and the educated middle class youths across communities want Modi to become prime minister. For once, it appears they are least bothered about Jigajinagi.
“This is the time for change. We should forget all differences and back Modi. Modi should become the prime minister,’’ said a group of youths sitting at a cool drinks shop at Horti village on the Bijapur-Solapur national highway, reflecting the pro-Modi mood.
Plus, Jigajinagi is a master at winning elections and his personal rapport with voters might help him overcome all adversities.
As far as the Congress’ Rathod is concerned, he is banking on programmes like Anna Bhagya and Ksheera Bhagya of the Siddaramaiah government to reach out to voters. Since he is the only Banjara candidate in the fray, he can count on the community votes, which are in considerable numbers.
He is also playing a sympathy card as he was defeated twice in the last five years (in 2009 Lok Sabha elections and 1999 Assembly polls).
The apparent unity among Congress leaders is also an added advantage for this former cricketer.
When it comes to Shivaram, he has managed to cover the ground to a greater extent. His reputation as the first IAS officer to have cleared exams in Kannada, his works as the Chief Executive Officer of Bijapur zilla panchayat and his stint as an actor — all seem to have attracted youths in rural areas.
‘’We need to support people like Shivaram sahebru. He is a retired IAS officer and knows everything about administration. If he is elected, we can hope for development,’’ said Manjunath as he and his friends set up a pandal for Ambedkar Jayanti celebrations.
The main disadvantage for Shivaram is that unlike the Congress and the BJP, there is no strong local leadership for the JD(S).