The BJP has pitted their senior Lingayat leader and minister V Somanna against senior Congress leader and former chief minister Siddaramaiah in this seat with the hope that Somanna would turn out to be the ‘Giant Slayer’. Siddaramaiah is an eight-time MLA who had earlier won twice from Varuna, situated a mere 14 kilometers away from the heritage city of Mysuru.
“I never dreamt that the reception for me in a former chief minister’s constituency will be this warm and enthusiastic. The people of Varuna have shown my critics that I am not a person from Bengaluru who has come here, but a man from Varuna who will bring in development,” said Somanna with a smile.
Attempt to breach Siddaramaiah’s fortress
Somanna is quite upbeat with the way people have received him in a seat that is considered Siddaramaiah’s fortress and promises to make Varuna as developed as Bengaluru.
“The people have discerned the difference between Somanna and Siddaramaiah. They have seen our style of working and I am a hardworking man. I am a workaholic and will ensure I work night and day for the prosperity of this seat,” said Somanna as News18 followed him on the campaign trail.
The seasoned BJP leader, who is contesting from two seats — Varuna and Chamarajanagar — finds it a balancing act to campaign in both constituencies. Shuttling between the two neighbouring seats, Somanna manages to travel across the constituency and covers 20 to 30 villages a day, meeting and greeting the residents with a smile and an appeal to vote for the BJP, development, and him.
His opponent Siddaramaiah commands a lot of support in the seat, having been elected twice from his birthplace. Siddaramaiah has been trying to woo the voters in his favour as he pins his hopes on winning this seat one last time. The Congress leader has announced his retirement after this election.
“This is my last election and I am 100 per cent sure that the people of Varuna will make me win,” said Siddaramaiah in an interview with News18 after filing his nomination for the seat. In the 2018 Karnataka elections, Siddaramaiah contested from two seats — Badami and Chamundeshwari — but lost the Chamundeshwari seat.
Somanna has been attacking his opponent with an emotional card that also touches the hearts of the people — the power of Goddess Chamundeshwari. “Siddaramaiah was given a ‘varaprasadam’ (divine blessing) but he rejected it. We are sure that the lotus will bloom here beautifully,” Somanna added.
People this time are also divided in their support as those who back the BJP feel it is time that Somanna is given a chance, which in turn will help the Lingayat community as well which forms close to 60,000 of Varuna’s 2.5 lakh voting population.
Varuna is believed to be the stronghold of Congress. Former Karnataka chief minister BS Yediyurappa’s son BY Vijayendra, who is also contesting from Shikaripura, visited a Lingayat Mutt in Varuna constituency on behalf of Somanna, seeking the Mutt’s support. By fielding Somanna, the BJP is looking at keeping its relationship with the Lingayats intact after the community’s demand for reservation and separate religion status was kept in limbo.
Sitting around his friend’s tea shop is Malaga Naik, an agriculturist. His family has been in Varuna for over five generations and speaking to News18, he says people of Varuna have immense love for Siddaramaiah as he has developed the region and provided good facilities like drinking water, uninterrupted power supply, roads, and other subsidies.
“Siddaramaiah has worked for the welfare of the people. This seat of Varuna is for him. He may say this is the last election, but for us, he is our candidate for eternity. Be it his son or grandson, our love and support will always be with Siddaramaiah Anna,” said the septuagenarian.
Malaga’s schoolmate Suresh also chimes in, saying Siddaramaiah would be the chief minister once again and make Varuna proud.
However, Sidappa, who travelled 10 kilometres on a bicycle to a village called Chinamballi to meet Somanna, feels Siddaramaiah neglected the Lingayats and hence the community has decided to back Somanna, a Lingayat leader himself.
“He (Siddaramaiah) has provided a lot of amenities to other communities. But we Lingayats have not received benefits. This time, Somanna will do something good for our people and I have come to support him and his candidature,” he said.
Shivanna, who is also a Lingayat, differs in his thoughts. “Our vote is only for Siddaramaiah. I am a Lingayat and I feel that he has worked hard to develop our village. Till our last breath, our vote is for Siddaramaiah, the AHINDA leader.”
Azam and Fazil, two local Muslim leaders who joined Somanna during his door-to-door campaign, put their weight behind him.
“Varuna gave Siddaramaiah two chances but nothing much changed. This time we have decided to give another candidate a chance,” Azam told News18. “This time, let’s try a new candidate for the betterment of Varuna,” added Fazil.
Mahanthesh, who runs a local mill, feels Somanna is the face of the Lingayats and the community will vote for him as it means it is a vote for the BJP. “It’s a tough fight. Both sides have equal support. It is like a tug of war,” said Mahanthesh.
Anticipation in Siddaramaiah’s ancestral home
News18 travelled to Siddaramanahundi, a quaint little village in Varuna which is also the birthplace of Siddaramaiah. His younger brother Sidde Gowda, who has a striking resemblance to the former chief minister, warmly welcomed the media with the family’s trademark smile. Sidde Gowda is confident that his brother will be the undisputed winner from Varuna this time.
Siddaramaiah is the second son of the late Siddarame Gowda and Boramma and the second among four brothers and a sister. Sidde Gowda, the younger brother, prefers to meet the media in their renovated ancestral home and recall their younger days.
“There is a fight with Somanna but Siddaramaiah will win, no doubt. He has worked for the people. The people have immense love and affection for him and they would like to see him as their MLA and if possible chief minister again,” he told News18.
“He has been a chief minister who served a full term. He should have been made one earlier between 1999 and 2004, but then the chance came in 2013. This time too if the high command deems it fit, we would like to see him in Vidhan Soudha as chief minister,” he said.
Interestingly, Siddaramaiah and his younger brothers Sidde Gowda and Rame Gowda are named after the main deity of their village temple Siddarameshwara and several residents of the village are named Siddaramaiah or Sidde Gowda.
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