The picture of Prime Minister Narendra Modi flanked by former Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa and his sons at a rally in the lush green, verdant district of Shivamogga on Monday underscored the political import of this constituency that has given three chief ministers to Karnataka.

This time, the Shivamogga Lok Sabha seat is set to witness a battle royale between three heavyweights. Against BY Raghavendra, the sitting BJP member of Lok Sabha and elder son of State BJP patriarch and former CM BS Yediyurappa, the Congress has fielded Geeta, daughter of the former Congress CM, the late SBangarappa. Geeta is married to reigning Kannada filmstar Shiva Rajkumar.

The most active campaigner for Raghavendra is Kumar Bangarappa. The eldest son of Bangarappa, he is a former BJP minister who is leading the charge against his sister Geeta, supported by younger brother Madhu Bangarappa. The latter is a Cabinet Minister in CM Siddaramiah’s government as Primary and Secondary Education Minister.

Stirring the pot further is the former Deputy CM and BJP leader KS Eshwarappa who has rebelled against his party to contest as an independent to ‘defeat Raghavendra and break the stranglehold of Yediyurappa and his sons on the BJP unit in Karnataka.’

Eshwarappa is no lightweight. A former State unit president of BJP, he and Yediyurappa were often described as the ‘Vajpayee–Advani’ duo of the Karnataka BJP. Hailing from the same district of Shivamogga, they worked together to build the party since the 1970s.

Speaking to businessline, Eshwarappa said: “I am a devoted follower of Modiji and a disciplined soldier of the party. However, we cannot allow Yediyurappa and his sons to hijack the party which is like a mother to us. My followers want me to contest as an independent and defeat Raghavendra.”

Eshwarappa is upset that while Yediyurappa has ensured that his elder son Raghavendra is a Lok Sabha MP and younger son BY Vijayendra is the State party president, his son, Kantesh Eshwarappa, was denied a ticket to the Haveri Lok Sabha constituency. Sangh Parivar leaders have been meeting Eshwarappa to mollify him and make him step aside from the contest, but Eshwarappa remains adamant. “Even if Modi requests me (to stay away from contesting), I am not going to agree and will go ahead,” he said.

Karnataka BJP President Vijayendra, however, sounds confident that even if Eshwarappa contests, his brother will likely prevail. “Once the results come, the world will see,” he said.

However independent analysts say if Eshwarappa does decide to stay in the race, it might not be easy for the Yediyurappa family. “Eshwarappa hails from the Kuruba (traditional shepherd) community, the third largest in the State and the district. He is seen as a tall leader of the community along with CM Siddaramaiah. So any perceived insult may not sit well with them,” according to L Manjunath, a political analyst.

The Congress is gleefully watching the saga from the sidelines in the hope of regaining the seat it last won 25 years ago in 1999.