Bellary, May 14: Money power rules the roost in this mineral rich but backward district with 'mining lords' from Congress and BJP involved in a battle of ballots in their bid to win Bellary city constituency which goes to polls in the second phase of Karnataka Assembly elections on May 16.
With the withdrawal of the JD(S) candidate Diwakar Babu from the fray after he decided to return to the Congress fold, a straight contest will be on between Anil Lad of Congress and Somashekar Reddy of BJP.
Now with mining 'biggies' in fray and ready to do what ever 'needed' to be done to win the election, the political parties have taken a back seat. It is the names that matter most in Bellary city segment than the symbols.
However, voter will have to overcome the confusion of finding his candidate as there are 31 candidates in the fray. The segment has 2,33,403 which includes 1,13,397 women.
Mr Devegowda roped in Mr Babu and gave him the JD(S) ticket after Congress chose to ignore the former minister. However, Union minister Ambareesh succeeded pulling the JD(S) candidate back to the party. Congress is making a desperate bid to tame the BJP, which had conquered the Bellary district that had been a bastion of the Congress not long time ago.
BJP leaders are surprised at the unprecedented unity among Congress leaders. Bigwigs C K Jaffar Sharief, Allum Veerbhadrappa and K C Kondaiah are campaigning in the constituency to ensure the defeat of the BJP 'mining magnets'.
This along with mine millionaire Mr Lad's capacity for providing funds for the campaigning in this changed scenario it is believed that Congress has gained an edge over the BJP.
However no one can discount the 'strength' of the saffron party leaders like MLC Janardhana Reddy and MP Karunakara Reddy and former Minister B Sriramulu who command a clout in this backward district that no one else can boast of. Somashekar, the former Mayor of Bellary, is the brother of Janardhana Reddy.
Mr Lad, who recently deserted BJP to joining Congress, is the richest candidates in the second phase of election. But whether he is strong enough to break the monopoly of the Reddy clan remains to be seen.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi, General Secretary Rahul Gandhi are also campaigning in the neighouring areas of Koppal and other areas of this constituency. Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S R Reddy also visited Bellay city yesterday in his effort to woo the voters of the constituency which was held by Congress since Independence till 2004.
Diwakar Babu now says he would seek votes for Congress and not for himself or JD(S) to ensure that votes are not divided in favour of BJP. "Now my aim is to defeat communal forces", Babu said to a question by UNI on why he was joining Congress.
The Reddy brothers, who are known for their 'generosity' in financing the poor in their difficult times, are banking on the development issues of the constituency. Janardhana Reddy, who came to limelight for making serious allegation against former Chief Minister H D Kumarswamy of taking a bribe of Rs 150 crores from the mining lobby during the coalition set up, said that the Congress held the constituency for the last several decades but did virtually nothing for its development.
In this election both the parties have been focusing on development of the constituency and promising voters with providing of proper drinking water, road and other basic amenities.
Backwardness of the district has become an issue despite providing huge income to the government from export of iron ore.
Initially Bellary exported 25,000 tones of iron ore in 1998. Now it exports more than 1.75 lakh of ore. But when it comes to development and empowerment of the poor, little is visible.
A voter Papi Reddy said that Babu sensed defeat and hence realised soon to join Congress.
Mr Somashekhar has become popular among common mass for his campaigning 'gimmicks' with the main onus on door-to-door campaign, while Mr Lad not as good in mingling with the voters.
The fight in all the nine constituencies in the district is mostly between Congress and BJP including the Bellary Rural where former minister Sriramulu is contesting against Congress candidate.