5 yrs after IAS officer’s death, Cong springs a surprise, fields wife in Karnataka bypoll

In a surprise move, the Congress on Wednesday named H Kusuma, 31, wife of IAS officer D K Ravi, who died in 2015, as the party’s candidate for the by-election for Raja Rajeshwari Nagar — RR Nagar — Assembly constituency scheduled for November 3.

Kusuma, 31, a former teacher at an engineering college, is daughter of Congress-turned-JD(S) leader Hanuman-tharayappa, a real estate businessman. She had formally joined the Congress earlier this week.

With Kusuma’s candidature, the Congress is seen as aiming to tap into Hanumantharayappa’s influence among the Vokkaliga community, which has a large presence in the region.

The JD(S), considered a Vokkaliga party, is yet to announce a candidate and is toying with the idea of fielding a local leader. The BJP, too, has not announced its candidate for the RR Nagar seat.

Kusuma’s family had been in news in 2015 following the suspected death by suicide of Ravi, 34, an Additional Commissioner of Commercial Tax (Enforcement) in Bengaluru who was found hanging in his official residence on March 16 that year.

The then Congress government under Siddaramaiah had handed over the probe to CBI on March 23, 2015, amid conspiracy theories that the officer could have been murdered for adverse positions he had taken against realtors and the sand mafia in the state.

The CBI stated its report in November 2016 that Ravi had committed suicide.

For next month’s bypoll for RR Nagar, former Congress MLA and film producer Munirathna Naidu, who was among the 13 legislators who jumped ship in July 2019 and joined the BJP to bring it to power, is considered a front-runner for the ruling party. He is also seen as being backed by Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa.

But the local BJP unit, with local leader Tulsi Muniraju Gowda said to be favored by BJP national secretary B L Santhosh, is seen as opposing attempts to give the RR Nagar ticket to Naidu.

A by-election will also be held the same day for Sira Assembly seat in Tumkur region after the seat fell vacant following the death of B Satyanarayana of JD(S). The JD(S) has picked Satyanarayana’s wife, Ammajamma Satyanarayana, as its candidate to tap into a sympathy wave. The Congress has named former minister T B Jayachandra, who unsuccessfully contested from Sirsa in 2018.

The BJP is yet to decide on a candidate.

The bypolls are being viewed as a test for the continuance of B S Yediyurappa as CM amid murmurs of a possible change of leadership. For Congress, these are the first real test for new state unit chief D K Shivakumar.