Did BJP err in choosing Guttedar to counter Kharge?

KALABURAGI: Has the BJP made an error of judgement in expecting the strongman of Afzalpur Assembly constituency, Malikayya Guttedar  to counter senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge and win more seats for the saffron party in the Hyderabad Karnataka region?    

Six time MLA Malikayya, who joined the BJP recently in protest against “family rule and the suffocating atmosphere in the Congress”, has been entrusted the responsibility of leading the saffron party which has no big leader to match the stature of Mr Kharge in the four districts of HK region-Bidar, Kalaburagi, Yadgir and Raichur. 

Describing Mr Malikayya, who belongs to the Idiga community,  as a backward class leader, state BJP Chief B.S. Yeddyurappa during his visit to Afzalpur on Friday, spelt out the task set for him in this election.  “Mr Malikayya’s entry into the BJP has brought us immense strength (Aane bala bandide). I expect him to win 15-20 seats for us in the HK region. I will make him a Cabinet minister in my government ”, Mr Yeddyurappa promised voters.

But senior BJP leaders and political observers are unanimous that the state leadership of BJP has made an error of judgement in expecting Mr Malikayya to play the role.   “The main reason for welcoming Mr Malikayya was because he has the guts to take on Kharge senior.  There is no leader even in the opposition who can speak against Mr Kharge”.

“ Going by his past success, many will concur that Mr Malikayya is a powerful leader in his constituency from where he got elected six times contesting on Congress, KCP and JD(S) symbols. But his influence is confined to his own constituency and does not extend beyond the district. He is a leader known for his money, muscle and liquor power and he has made good use of them to get elected against all odds. He may have nursed an ambition to grow big but due to the influence of Mr Kharge and Mr Dharam Singh, he could not realize it”.

“In today’s politics, apart from money and muscle power, it’s the caste factor that plays a big role. When Idigas, the community that Mr Malikayya belongs, does not have a sizeable number of voters in any constituency in the region except Chittapur and Chincholi, how is he going to sway voters for the saffron party?” they ask.  

What is worse is that Mr Malikayya’s joining the saffron party has shaken his own position  in his constituency. “Since three decades, the fight in Afzalpur has always been between two individuals (Malikayya and M.Y. Patil). In the previous elections, Mr Malikayya was able to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat due to his vast money-muscle –liquor power. But in this election, the fight has transformed into a open fight between Mr Malikayya and the Kharges. The Kharge group has taken up the responsibility of leading the fight on behalf of Mr Patil. And as expected they are understood to have drawn up a big plan to foil the designs of Mr Malikayya. Although a section of Veershaiva-Lingayats, who dominate in the constituency with a strength of around 70,000 votes, may side with the BJP, Mr Patil due to his affinity with them is expected to get a big chunk of the vote bank. A portion of it will also go to the JD(S) candidate Rajenra Patil Revoor, who is also a Lingayat.  The Dalit votes numbering  around 35,000 and the Kurubas who are around 20,000 are expected to rally behind Mr Patil. Similarly the Muslims, who are around 25,000 in number, are expected to go against Mr Malikayya. 

It is not clear how the second most dominant Kabbaliga community will vote in his election. The 45,000 Kabbaliga votes play a decisive role in the constituency. Independent observers opine that as the situation stands today, Mr Malikayya is batting on a sticky wicket in Afzalpur.

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