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Father-daughter Karnataka MLA duo aim for 2018 repeat in IT hub, but uphill battle awaits her

The neighbouring constituencies of BTM Layout and Jayanagar in Bengaluru house some of the city’s most important IT companies and fintech start-ups, and also have big infrastructure projects such as metro rail and flyovers. Though both constituencies are now with the Congress, the party faces the tough task of holding on to Jayanagar in the May 10 Assembly elections.

Congress leader and former minister Ramalinga Reddy, a seven-time MLA, won four times from Jayanagar between 1989 and 2004. But after BTM Layout was created in 2008 following delimitation, he moved there and has won it ever since while Jayanagar fell into the hands of the BJP’s B N Vijayakumar. While Reddy is expected to hold on to his constituency, his daughter Sowmya has a tough road ahead.

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The Congress found a chance to retake Jayanagar after Vijayakumar died just a week before the 2018 elections. A month later, when the election was held, Sowmya edged out her BJP opponent B N Prahlad by 2,887 votes. What makes re-election a tough task for the Jayanagar MLA is that the BJP controls the Bengaluru South Lok Sabha constituency of which Jayanagar and BTM Layout are a part, and is also in power in five of the seven wards in Jayanagar.

This time, Sowmya is facing the two-time BJP corporator from Pattabhirama Nagar, C K Ramamurthy, who is an experienced campaigner. Ramamurthy is a member of the Sangh Parivar and was one of the co-in-charge of elections in the Mandya by-election in 2019 and the Puducherry Assembly election in 2021. While the BJP won Mandya, its ally All India NR Congress won in Puducherry.

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Ramamurthy ruled out the possibility of the father-daughter duo making a comeback, describing his Congress rival as “arrogant” and “inaccessible” to voters. While the ruling party is confident of getting votes from Pattabhirama Nagar and other wards such as Sarakki, Shakambari and JP Nagar ward, which has a 20% Brahmin population, it is not sure of wards such as Gurappanpalya and Byrasanadra where Congress corporators are in power. To win Jayanagar, the Congress will bank on the support of 24% Muslim electors and about 9% Vokkaliga voters.

Meanwhile, Sowmya’s appeal to voters hinges on her promise of welfare initiatives and her father’s popularity. She accused the BJP-led government of slashing development funds allocated to constituencies where Congress MLAs are in power. “Jayanagar was allocated Rs 344.55 crore by the coalition government (of the Congress and the Janata Dal-Secular) in 2018-’19. Under the New Nagarothanna Scheme, only Rs 125 crore was allocated, a total cut of Rs 219 crore because of politics,” she told The Indian Express.

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BTM Layout contest

Ramalinga Reddy is scheduled to campaign at least thrice a day for the next six days in Jayanagar before heading to campaign in the Hyderabad-Karnataka region. After that, he will go on a statewide campaign tour. He will return to Bengaluru just ahead of polling day to campaign in his constituency and Jayanagar.

Though BTM Layout has a similar caste calculus as Jayanagar, the seven-time MLA has managed to make it work in his favour through development work. He is credited with adopting and developing several government schools in the constituency.

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An experienced political leader, he has held several plum portfolios in previous Congress-led governments, including Home, Transport, and Primary and Secondary Education. As he attempts to get re-elected for an eighth term, standing in his way is the BJP’s Sridhara Reddy who is believed to be a close aide of BJP national general secretary (organisation) B L Santhosh. In 2018, Reddy defeated the BJP’s Lallesh Reddy by 20,478 votes.

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In the constituency, waterlogging in areas such as Adugodi and Koramangala is a major problem. The Ejipura Kendriya Sadan flyover has also been pending since 2017. With Ejipura residents protesting against the flyover several times, only 42% of the work has been completed in the last six years. In March, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) floated the fourth tender to complete the project.

Asked about the flyover, Ramalinga Reddy told The Indian Express, “The delay in the project is due to high costs and the non-payment to contractors. The foundation stone was laid in 2017 and the work started in 2018 and 32% of the work was completed in one year. In the next four years, despite commissioners visiting and checking the project and the Congress demanding that the government expedite the project, only 10% progressed. If the Congress comes to power, finishing this project will be our priority and we will finish the flyover in a year.”

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BTM Residents’ Welfare Association president Satish Jadhav said, “BTM Layout is facing multifold issues. One of the main issues is water logging, growth of unauthorised PGs (paying guest homes), and an increase in drug peddling cases.”

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