Badami set to cast(e) Siddaramaiah’s future

From Badami to Chamundeshwari, from Karwar to Ramanagara, the battle drums have fallen silent and it’s time for the voter to show he can make and wreck political ambitions. DC profiles six constituencies where the cross-currents reflect what this poll is all about

Badami

VITTAL SHASTRI

It could  boil down to caste in Badami, which is seeing a  high profile contest between CM Siddaramaiah and BJP’s Mr B Sriramulu. Aware of the deep caste loyalties here,  the Congress and BJP have done their best to impress the dominant Veerashaiva-Lingayats and other backward communities.

Shivayogi Mandir, the power hub of the Veerashaiva-Lingayats, became a pilgrimage centre for all political parties with  Mr Siddaramaiah, BJP national president, Amit Shah,  Sriramulu, and JD(S) supremo, H.D. Deve Gowda visiting it in a show of goodwill in the weeks leading to the poll.

Mr Siddaramaiah arrived at the mutt at the eleventh hour to appease the community and mitigate the damage caused following his party’s support for independent religion status for Lingayats.

Also, aware that it is not in the good books of the Madiga community, which makes up a large chunk of voters here for not accepting  Justice Sadashiva Commission report recommending internal reservation for scheduled castes, Congress roped in Madiga leaders to drum up support for it and  promised to implement the report after returning to power in the state. 

While the Valmiki community is believed to support fellow member Mr Sriramulu, Congress is hoping its leader, Satish Jarkiholi will send some of its support its way and improve its chances of victory. The party may also have to be wary of JD(S)’ Mr, Hanumant Mavinamarad who is not a strong contender,  but could  decide the fate of both major parties, cornering some of the Veerashaiva-Lingayat votes, as he belongs to the community.

The Congress’ silver lining may be the Kurubas, the community to which the Chief Minister belongs. 

“The Congress will win from Badami with a huge margin as we have worked hard for the CM’s victory. There is no anti-incumbency in the state as our government launched various bhagyas for people irrespective of castes. All communities, including Kurubas will support us,” asserts  Dr Devaraj Patil, a close aide of the CM , who gave up his ticket to let him contest from the constituency in addition to  Chamundeshwari. 

Ramanagar

No contest, HDK a clear winner here

Vinay Madhav

Since filing his nomination papers, state JD(S) chief, H.D. Kumaraswamy hasn’t bothered to return to Ramanagar, although he held a massive rally in neighbouring Channapatna, the second constituency he is contesting from these polls.

But for the people of Ramnagar his absence makes no difference as the elections in the two constituencies of Ramanagar district -Ramanagar and Kanakapura, from where his arch rival and Minister D K Shivakumar is contesting from , are always on auto-mode.  Whether either leader campaigns or not, no one doubts their victory.

Today, the feeble voice of Congress candidate, Iqbal Hussain is being heard in parts of Ramanagar district, but no one is taking BJP candidate ,Mrs Leelavathi seriously. 

Dominated by Vokkaligas and minorities, Ramanagar has not bothered much with caste configurations  and embraced outsiders as its own. For instance, when in 1994, Mr  H D Deve Gowda, then a part of the Janata Dal,  migrated from Hassan to contest from Ramanagar, he was elected and went on to become Chief Minister.

The constituency has seen its share of upsets. After Mr Gowda left to become PM the party fielded “Rebel Star”  M.H. Ambarish in the by-elections. In  one of the biggest upsets, despite the Janata Dal being in power, he was defeated by  C M Lingappa of the Congress, who despite being an outsider, was completely accepted by the people of Ramanagar till 2004.

Things changed drastically when Mr Kumaraswamy entered the scene that year  and won the elections. He has since been regarded as the “son of the  soil” in the constituency. After a comfortable win in 2004,  he went on to win a landslide victory by a margin of  48,000 votes in 2008. The election that year was the first after delimitation of constituencies and his arch rival , D K Shivakumar, whose old constituency, Sathanur was merged with Kanakapura, was taking stock of his new constituency and  had no time to bother about his rivalry with him.

In 2013, Congress leader took on Mr Kumaraswamy by fielding Mr Chikkadevaru against him in Ramanagar.   However he could not dent Mr Kumaraswamy's popularity, and only brought down his victory margin to 27,000.

Chikkamagaluru

Tough battle on cards for C.T. Ravi in Chikkamagaluru

M.B. GIRISH

It’s no easy ride for former Minister, C T Ravi in Chikkamagaluru these polls.  Although a three-time MLA, the BJP leader has angered people here with his failure to solve their drinking water problem and supply water through the Karadaga lift irrigation to the drier regions as he had promised to.

Making the contest even tougher for him is former Minister, B L Shankar, who has represented Chikkamagaluru in parliament  and in the state Legislative Council twice. To Mr Ravi’s discomfiture , he was successful in supplying water to the constituency from the Yagachi reservoir in Belur taluk of Hassan district.

The BJP leader first rode to success in 2004, defeating former Minister, Sageer Ahmed of the Congress on a Hindutva wave created over the Bababudangiri Peeta dispute and won the election by a comfortable margin of 24,000 votes. But with no such Hindutva wave in sight this time, he may have a tougher battle on his hands.

His victory margin has already declined in the last  two elections. While it was 15,000 votes in 2008 against Janata Dal (Secular) candidate, Bhojegowda , it fell to 10,000 votes against Congress candidate, Gayathri Shantegowda in 2013.
Despite the negative trend, Mr Ravi’s supporters claim he remains the favourite as he has always stood by the people and been accessible to them at all times. While this may be true, people of Lakya and Sakarayapatna hoblis seem more concerned about their water requirements. Complains one resident,“ Ravi may have improved the condition of the roads but drinking water is still a mirage for us.”

But,there are some who point out  that it has not rained for two years, “How can Ravi bring us water then?” they ask. But the Congress is clearly hoping there are more people upset with the MLA than happy. With minorities in  the majority followed by Lingayats and backward classes in the constituency, it hopes the former will back it along with the backward classes to help it defeat him.

However, JDS leaders believe their candidate, Harish who is a vegetable exporter and from the Lingayat community, has a good chance of winning as well in the constituency .

Bhalki

Eshwar has a jinx to break

K. N REDDY

Can Minister for Municipal Administration, Eshwar Khandre,  the Congress candidate in Bhalki, break the jinx and pull off a hattrick? He is up against Mr D.K. Sidram of the BJP  and Mr Prakash Khandre of JD(S). 

Bhalki constituency results since 1962 show no candidate has won thrice. Surprisingly, although the constituency has become a fiefdom of the Khandre family since 1962 when veteran leader Bheemanna Khandre won the seat on a Congress ticket, no single individual who contested here has achieved a hattrick. Why? Either the candidates who won the seat twice consecutively abstained from a third run or were defeated. 

Bheemanna Khandre won the seat on a Praja Socialist Party ticket in 1962 and INC, 1967. In the 1972 election, Khandre senior lost to Subash Ashture who contested on the Congress symbol.

Although Bheemanna, who returned to the Indira Congress after Devaraj Urs’ downfall, won the seat in 1978 and retained it against the strong anti-Congress wave in 1983 (which saw the the first non-Congress government in the state), he lost his chances of a third term when he was trounced by Kalyanrao Molkeri.
In the 1989 Assembly election, Khandre senior rebelled against the Congress to protest against Mr Ashture being allotted a ticket. He fielded his eldest son Dr Vijaykumar as an independent and got him elected. A few months later, Dr Vijaykumar joined the Congress and won the seat on the Congress symbol in 2004.  He then lost to his cousin, Prakash and the BJP in 1999. He retained the seat in 2004 and lost  in 2008 despite a strong pro-BJP wave. Eshwa replaced his elder brother Dr Vijaykumar as the Congress candidate and received payback in 2008. He won the seat in 2013. The real fight will be between Eshwar and D.K. Sidram, who nudged out Prakash in the race for the  BJP ticket. 

The Marathi-speaking community plays a decisive role in ensuring a candidate’s success. It is said that Maratha voters backed BJP in the previous elections and helped the party win but may not do it again as they are annoyed over not the fact that none from their community has been fielded by the BJP this time in any of the five general constituencies in the district.

Political analysts are of the view that Eshwar is on a strong wicket having been a minister and is likely to break the jinx by overcoming the strong challenge from the BJP’s Mr Sidram who is  banking on the anti-Khandre sentiment in the constituency.

Chittapur

Will Guttedar factor hurt Priyank Kharge in Chittapur?

K N REDDY

While Minister for Information Technology and Tourism, Priyank Kharge is seeking re-election from  Chittapur for a third consecutive term, all eyes are on the constituency more because Afzalpur strongman, Malikayya Guttedar has vowed to defeat him these polls as he  believes he was cheated out of  a ministerial berth in the present government under pressure from his father, Mallikarjun Kharge.

Quitting the Congress in a huff, Mr Guttedar joined the BJP in protest and is now working hard to defeat the Minister in the constituency. Although the poll should have been a cakewalk for Mr Priyank Kharge considering his political lineage, and the voters’ support that the Congress enjoys in the constituency, it appears he could be in for a tough battle as the people here are reportedly upset at being neglected  by the “Bangalore Man,” as he is known,  his inaccessibility and autocratic style of functioning. Also, the resignation of senior leaders like Vishwanath Patil Hebbal, Srinivas Sagar, Ravindra Sajjanshetty and Lingareddy Basareddy has given a shot in the arm to  BJP candidate, Valmiki Naik.

While the BSP too has fielded a candidate,  the constituency is poised for a straight fight between Mr Priyank Kharge and Mr Naik. Dismissing all negative forecasts, Mr Priyank Kharge says the development he has brought to the constituency will give him the third term he is seeking in the state assembly.

However, considering the challenges faced by his son and the high stakes involved,the senior Kharge has been paying extra attention to Chittapur these polls, drawing up a strategy not only to defeat  Mr Guttedar’s attempts, but also take the fight to the Afzalpur constituency to cut him down to  size.

Karwar

Old rival Asnotikar back, will Satish ‘sail’ through?

Gururaj A. Paniyadi

The presence of old rivals and rank newcomers in the fray makes the tussle for  Karwar interesting these polls. While Mr Sathish Sail, contesting on a Congress ticket and Mr Anand Asnotikar, on a JD(S) ticket, are up against each other for the third time from the constituency, the BJP's Roopali Naik and NCP's Madhav Nayak are trying their luck for the first time here these polls.

Although the Congress has won many times from Karwar over the last two decades,  candidates from various political parties and even independents have won from here in the past.  Mr Asnotikar,  however, seems one step ahead of other candidates these polls as he started campaigning about three months ago.

Although there aren’t many people of his caste in the constituency, his family name, past victory and the backing of the JD(S) could work to his advantage. On the other hand, some see his absence from active politics and distance from the public over the past three years as a possible hurdle. Mr Sail’s popularity could be damaged by his alleged involvement in illegal mining in Karnataka and Goa, . 
"Sail is a popular leader but a section of Congress leaders requested the party high command not to field him from Karwar. While he played on the sympathy of voters the last election as he was denied a Congress ticket, he may not enjoy the same support again," say sources.

The NCP has fielded Mr Madhav Nayak, former Congressman  and a known activist.  From the Komarpanth community, the constituency’s strongest, he could hurt other candidates’ chances. First-timer Roopali Naik is  cashing in on being a woman and on the Modi wave in the region. The fact that the BJP has won twice from here , in 2004 and again in a 2008 by- election has raised her hopes these polls. 

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