By P.T. Bopanna
With the BJP giving its ticket to controversial sitting MLA from Virajpet in Kodagu (Coorg) district, K.G. Bopaiah, the chances of Congress candidate A.S. Ponnanna (in picture), have brightened in the elections to Karnataka Assembly next month.
Though Bopaiah who is mired in several scams was not in the reckoning for a seat this time (last time he got the ticket in the third list), he hit the jackpot after his political godfather and former chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa reportedly pushed for his candidature.
In the process, Appachu Ranjan, sitting MLA from Madikeri, a Kodava, also landed the BJP ticket because it has always been a ‘package deal’ to field both Ranjan and Bopaiah to balance the ‘caste’ factor of Kodavas (Coorgs) and Arre Bashe Gowdas who form a large chunk of voters in Kodagu.
With Bopaiah being dragged into the controversy over his alleged involvement in the ‘40 per cent commission scam’ that has sullied the image of the BJP government in Karnataka, Reena Prakash, the party’s female face in Kodagu, was the frontrunner for the ticket.
In fact, the BJP high command was in favour of giving the ticket to Reena Prakash in the last assembly elections itself, but in the last moment the ticket went to Bopaiah following pressure from Yeddyurappa whose government survived because of the partisan role played by Bopaiah as Speaker.
It has been a long pending demand of the Kodava community in Kodagu to give the ticket to a Kodava as the community has over 50,000 voters in the district.
Most of the Kodavas perceive Bopaiah, who belongs to the Arre Bashe Gowda community, as working against their interest in a clandestine manner. Bopaiah is being blamed for the court cases that are being filed repeatedly to deny the arms exemptions given to the Kodavas.
Bopaiah has been blamed for preventing entry to Kodavas during the Theerthodbhava two years ago at Talacauvery temple.
Ponnanna, son of firebrand politician A.K. Subbaiah, who was made the face of Congress three years ago, has been active in building the party which was in shambles after the BJP took roots in the district in the last two decades.
It is said most of the Kodava voters are likely to back Ponnanna this time because he has built a good rapport in the community by visiting the nook and corner of the district. He also won over the weaker sections by donating essential commodities during the pandemic through the trust he has created in the name of his parents.
Except for hard-core BJP workers, those with Hindutva sympathies are likely to back Ponnanna this time. Ponnanna would have had a cake walk in the elections, but for the fact that Congress leader Siddaramaiah who has a good chance of becoming the next chief minister, is perceived in a negative light in Kodagu because of his decision to celebrate Tipu Jayanthi.
Whether Ponnanna wins or loses the election, there is one thing that is clear that after many years, Kodagu has a leader of outstanding calibre in Ponnanna.