Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah had reportedly ignored the advices from his close aids and advisers while picking up the challenge from JD(S) to fight from the Chamundeshwari assembly elections for the May 12 assembly polls.

“The JD(S) has challenged me. I want to end my active political career in this constituency, which I first represented as an independent. But I also want to show them I can win here without them,” Siddaramaiah announced.

Kalburgi News had reported on Monday about the decision of Siddaramaiah to change constituencies for the forthcoming assembly elections. He is a sitting MLA from the Varuna constituency – which is reportedly to be fought for by his son Vijayendra,

However, Chamundeshwari is not a new turf for Siddaramaiah. He had been elected form this constituency five times earlier since 1983. He had fought and won elections as an independent candidate and Janata Party, Janata Dal and Janata Dal (S) candidates respectively. He had however also lost from this constituency twice – in 1989 and 1999.

“Both times, it was because my party split,” he said.

Election preparedness is in full swing in Chamundeshwari where a campaign vehicle at Hootagalli carrying Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah also had a 750-kg garland made of apples.

The constituency is riddled with problems of poor roads and a clogged drainage system, unlike many other parts of the state.

“I have come here ahead of the official announcement of my candidature as I won’t have time to come later. You must consider yourselves Siddaramaiah and work for my victory,” said the CM while conceding that this was the first time in 12 years that he was visiting the constituency.

“I have come back to you all. My party will form government again and I will continue to be the CM, if you people bless me”, said the chief minister while announcing that he would be contesting from the constituency.  Siddaramaiah is also the most important campaigner for the Congress for the polls this time and bears the duty of carrying the burden of campaigning in all or most of the 224 assembly seats.

“They are all Vokkaligas. But they have come for me”, Siddaramaiah told the media while pointing at the gathering who were by now biting into the apples from the garland.

According to sources, Siddaramaiah and his campaign managers want to appeal to an estimated 45,000 Dalits, 50,000 Kurubas and 14,000 minorities to vote for the Congress and not concentrate only on the 71,000-odd Vokkaliga voters from the constituency.

The Chamundeshwari constituency has a legacy of strongly supporting Janata Dal (S) – the party of the former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda, ever since 2006. It is believed that the Vokkaliga community has been unhappy with Siddaramaiah, who is also the former JD(S )state president, for leaving the party and its supporters. The community has shown reverence for the former PM and his son, HD Kumaraswamy. The Kuruba (shepherd) caste is the community the Siddaramaiah belongs to and this caste is considered to be lower in the social strata in the constituency.

There are however memories of Siddaramaiah about what was a hair-line win for him –  by only 257 votes in 2006 from this very constituency in a by-election, after he had resigned as the deputy CM. It was the first and the only time that he had contested the seat as a Congress candidate.

“It was the toughest election I have ever faced,” he told the media. “There was no demonetisation (to control cash flow). Both the JDS and the BJP, who were jointly ruling the state, ganged up to defeat me. But the people of Chamundeshwari held my hand and I won.”

Delimitation changed the boundaries of the Chamundeshwari constituency in 2008, following which Siddaramaiah began to contest from the Varuna constituency. He had won from that constituency by very large margins 2008 and 2013, even though the constituency predominantly has a large population from the Lingayat community – of which BJP’s chief ministerial candidate BS Yeddyurappa is also a member.

(Adapted from TheTimesofIndia.com)