Karnataka Election Sees BJP Leader Picking Cow-Shed Over 5-Star Hotel

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Karnataka Election Sees BJP Leader Picking Cow-Shed Over 5-Star Hotel

S Suresh Kumar is campaigning for the BJP in Karnataka bypolls in Nanjangud.

NANJANGUD: 

Highlights

  1. Karnataka by-election on Sunday in Nanjangud, Mysuru
  2. Result will be used as indicator of next year's state election
  3. Prestige battle for Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, BJP's Yeddyurappa
Nanjangud in Karnataka is known for its Shiva temple - and for its bananas. The town, 170 km from the tech hub of Bengaluru, is now performing an important function - a potential marker of who could win the state in next year's election.

On Sunday, Nanjangud votes for its new state legislator or MLA. The by-election was impelled by its current representative switching sides from the ruling Congress to the BJP. Srinivas Prasad was, till June last year, a member of Chief Minister Siddaramaiah's cabinet. He was dropped along with more than 10 other ministers for underperforming. Soon after that, he crossed over to the BJP.

The four-time MLA from Nanjangud is now up against KN Keshavamurthy of the Congress, who he has defeated twice.

The BJP is not coy about the weight of this election. "This is definitely a run up for 2018 assembly election," said BS Yeddyurappa, who heads the party in the state. Addressing a village gathering from a BJP election vehicle he said, "If you want me as Chief Minister next year, you must vote for Srinivasa Prasad."

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has also been campaigning in Nanjangud,  which lies in the heart of his strongold of Mysuru, right next to his own constituency. "Why only Mysore? I am popular all across the state!" he said to NDTV.  He was also clear that too much should not be made of the result. "This is not a referendum. No bypoll is a referendum."

S Suresh Kumar, a popular leader and former minister, is using his campaign for the BJP candidate to drive home that this is a no-frills party that will work hard for the common man - a message that Prime Minister Narendra Modi repeatedly delivers in his speeches.

To demonstrate, Mr Kumar stayed in a village cowshed for five nights. "One of our BJP workers was staying in a big cowshed. I thought why not stay here instead of going back to Mysore for a hotel room? "

"Party leaders from Nanjangud have arranged a five-star hotel accommodation for me at Mysuru. But I prefer open-air atmosphere at the cowshed rather than the air-conditioned atmosphere of the hotel in Mysuru," he said to news agency IANS.

In 2013, the BJP lost Karnataka, the first southern state it governed, amid a matrix of allegations of corruption against some of its most senior ministers including Mr Yeddyurappa, who was forced to resign as head of the government. He formed his own party, but when it proved a non-starter, he reunited with the BJP.  The party and he have declared he will be the presumptive Chief Minister next year.

Nanjangud has never been won by the BJP, a record the party is working hard to shatter.

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