Over the years the Soraba constituency in Shivamogga has always provided for an interesting fight. Once the stronghold of former Karnataka chief minister, S Bangarappa, the battle then on has been fought between his two sons, Madhu and Kumar and also their relative Hartalu Halappa.
This time the fight is between Madhu Bangarappa and Kumar Bangarappa. However, Halappa is not in the fray from Soraba this time and it would make an interesting fight between the two sons of the late former chief minister.
Back in 2008, it was Halappa who had the last laugh and defeated both the brothers. In 2013. Madhu contesting on a JD(S) ticket beat Halappa who had then joined the KJP. Kumar Bangarappa who contested on a Congress ticket ended up third.
However this is not the first time that the brothers are in a face-off. In 2004 Kumar was with the Congress and beat his brother who contested on a BJP ticket by 12,000 votes.
On the ground the mood appears to be favouring Madhu. He has put in a lot of work and the fact that the panchayats are controlled by the JD(S) has only added to his strength. He has opened the doors for us not just ahead of the elections, but for all five years since 2013, say the voters of this constituency. There is a big change in him and he is following in father's footsteps they also say.
Madhu has embarked on a door to door campaign and this seems to be missing in the case of his brother Kumar. The brothers are opponents on the battle field, but since the 2008 elections they have avoided hurling barbs at each other. In 2008 both the brothers were unable to make a mark as the voter had indicated a sense of disgust with the family politics.
In 2008, Madhu had fought like his father on a Samajwadi Party ticket. Kumar Bangarappa who had quit the Congress re-joined the party and contested that election.
This year the biggest complaint about Kumar who is contesting on a BJP ticket is his accessibility. Many voters complain that he has not been seen and is hardly available. This could go against him. The voters say that in Madhu they see as a serious politicians looking to take over his father's legacy.
Some feel that the BJP had not made a wise move by shifting Halappa out of his year and fielding Kumar. In 2008 Halappa won on a BJP ticket as he benefited from the split in the Idiga which is dominant in this community. This time around it appears as though the Idigas are backing Madhu.
The charm of Bangarappa senior:
The D M Nanjundappa committee report on regional imbalance had once termed this constituency as the most backward. Bangarappa was a popular leader no doubt, but in the past 15 years he has changed the party several times.
The voters had then blamed the family legacy for the state of affairs. However since 2013, there has been a visible effort by Madhu, the voters feel.
While there were complaints galore, the people of Soraba still looked up to Bangarappa senior. He was a loved leader and the fact that he became the Chief Minister of the state only added to his strength. It is the Idiga community that swears by the Bangarappas. While speaking fondly about the senior Bangarappa they say that he was simple and he had a knack of connecting with the masses.
The caste factor:
Like any other constituency in Karnataka, the caste factor plays a crucial role in Soaraba. The 60,000-strong Idiga community forms the biggest vote bank, followed by over 45,000 Lingayats, 40,000 voters from Scheduled Caste / Scheduled Tribes, 18,000 Madivalas and 15,000 Muslims.
In the 2004 elections, Kumar had capitalised on the Idiga votes and beaten his brother Madhu. All elections since have banked heavily on the votes from this community.