With Karnataka holding by-polls for 15 Assembly seats in October, the Congress party in the state is in a fix over Shivajinagar constituency, where the 1.9 lakh voters have mostly favoured Muslim representatives.
Shivajinagar constituency, which constitutes a Muslim majority, has always favoured a leader from its own community. But the recent I Monetary Advisory (IMA) Ponzi scam has created a great challenge for the political parties as most of the leaders who had support in the area have been linked with the tainted firm.
A huge chunk of the population of Shivajinagar had lost their money after investing in IMA. The scam amounted to more than Rs 2,000 crores, and nearly 40,000 customers were defrauded. With the names of many Muslim leaders tagged along IMA, it will be hard for the people to choose a representative for them in Shivajinagar.
Until the IMA scam broke out, former Congress MLA R Roshan Baig was the undisputed leader of Shivajinagar. But reports on his alleged close relationship with the IMA kingpin, Mansoor Khan, have tainted his reputation. The chances are less for Baig and his son Ruman Baig to win from the constituency after quitting Congress and contesting on a saffron ticket.
Although many are lobbying for a ticket to contest in Shivajinagar, Congress has not yet decided on a candidate. Fielding a non-Muslim candidate here can be risky for the party due to the voters' sentiments.
According to reports, party leaders, including MLC Rizwan Arshad, and BBMP corporators AR Zakir Ahmed, Abdul Wajid and Shakeel Ahmed are eying a party ticket. But there are also talks of Mohammed Haris Nalapad, son of Shantinagar MLA NA Haris, having a shot at contesting from Shivajinagar.
Recently, NA Haris had conducted a meeting with the Block Congress workers of Shivajinagar on the pretext of by-polls. Several party leaders, including UT Khader, Rizwan Arshad and his son Mohammed, were also present at the meeting.
It is reported that secretary of Bowring Institute HS Srikanth, President of Bengaluru Central District Congress Committee G Shekhar and Ex secretary of Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) BR Naidu have also expressed their interest in contesting from Shivajinagar.
The people of Shivajinagar are in a protest mode even as the by-elections approach, demanding the government to arrest the culprits in the IMA scam. Some of the victims of the Ponzi scheme have threatened to boycott the elections until their demands are met.