Explained: How Vijayanagara became Karnataka’s 31st district

Many within the ruling BJP had criticised the move in 2019, stating the decision to create a new district was being taken under pressure from Singh, in return for his role in BJP coming to power.

The Karnataka government on Monday issued a notification demarcating boundaries of the newly-formed Vijayanagara district. With Vijayanagara, the state now has 31 districts. Named after the capital of the Vijayanagar Empire, the new district was carved out from Ballari under the Karnataka Land Revenue Act, 1964.

Vijayanagara, located in Hyderabad-Karnataka region, is famous for its UNESCO World Heritage sites – Hampi and Virupaksha Temple.

With Hosapete as its headquarters, Vijayanagara has six taluks – Hosapete, Kudligi, Hagaribommanahalli, Kotturu, Hoovina Hadagali, and Harapanahalli.

Who campaigned for the new district?

On November 18, 2020, the Karnataka Cabinet approved the formation of Vijayanagara district following pressure from Anand Singh, Minister for Infrastructure Development, Haj and Wakf. Singh, who led the campaign for the new district, had quit the Congress in 2019 and became a minister in the BJP government after winning the bypoll from Hosapete.

The plan for a new Vijayanagara district was first officially mooted by Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa in September 2019, when Singh was a disqualified legislator.

In 2019, in a note written to the Chief Secretary of the state, Yediyurappa had stated that it was necessary to create a new district citing administrative reasons, and also in the note he added that some parts of the Ballari district were about 200km from the present headquarters.

Singh has said that carving out a separate district will help promote tourism to places such as Hampi, near Hosapete, and overall development of the six taluks, as Ballari district is spread over a large region.

Politics at play behind the new district

“The move is a dream come true and a historical decision,” said Singh. The move, however, was opposed by Ballari BJP MLA Somashekhar Reddy, part of the Reddy brothers’ group that controlled the region in the past.

Many within the ruling BJP had criticised the move in 2019, stating the decision to create a new district was being taken under pressure from Singh, in return for his role in BJP coming to power.

Singh, one of the 17 disqualified MLAs whose rebellion led to the fall of the previous H D Kumaraswamy-led Congress-JD(S) coalition government, had cited the demand for a separate Vijayanagara district as one of the reasons for his resignation from the Congress.

He subsequently joined the BJP and won from Vijayanagara (Hosapete) seat on the party ticket. The notification has come at a time when Singh is said to be unhappy with portfolios allocated to him during the rejig of portfolios last month, according to BJP sources.

Singh, who was earlier the Forest, Ecology and Environment Minister, was first moved to Tourism and was divested of Forest, leaving him with Ecology and Environment. This was again changed and he got Infrastructure Development, Haj and Wakf.

Undivided Ballari was politically significant to the BJP and the Congress both. Out of the nine Assembly constituencies, the Congress represents five and the BJP four.

Who opposed the creation of the new district?

The move to create the new district faced opposition, especially from within the ruling BJP, including MLA Somashekar Reddy.

A similar attempt had failed in October 2019 after the Reddy brothers threatened to withdraw support to the B S Yediyurappa government, which then had a thin majority, forcing the CM to defer the decision. The BJP now has a clear majority in the Assembly, and Somashekhar is the lone voice in the party opposing Ballari’s bifurcation.

The move is widely seen as an attempt to wrest control of the minerals-rich region from the hold of the Reddy brothers.

The move to create the new district was cleared after it received support of SC and ST Minister B Sreeramulu, who represents Ballari Rural in the Assembly and is considered a close associate of the Reddy brothers.

The Opposition party Congress strongly opposed the bifurcation of Ballari district claiming that it could lead to linguistic conflict between Telugu speaking and Kannada speaking people in the district.

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