'Reluctant' Prakash Hukkeri may give BJP the edge in Chikodi

At the outset, it is going to be a close and straight contest between Sugar Minister Prakash Hukkeri (Congress) and Ramesh Katti (BJP) in Chikodi constituency.

But rumour mills have it that the minister is keen to continue serving the Chikodi-Sadalga seat that he represents in the Assembly.

They say that though he has started campaigning, it lacks the zeal that was visible during his canvassing for last year’s Assembly elections. There are speculations that he might give up campaigning in the last phase, so as to ‘retain his place in the State Cabinet’. His aides say Hukkeri is not interested in going to Parliament.

It is said that Katti, who is fighting to retain the seat, has not visited large parts of the constituency. But, he is banking on the support of his party workers and legislators in the constituency and the ‘Modi wave’.

The number of votes that JD(S) candidate Srimant Patil and NCP nominee Prataprao Patil secure could tilt the balance in favour of either BJP or Congress candidate, it is said. Caste factor too could play a vital role. But, since both Hukkeri and Katti are from the Lingayat community (dominant in the constituency), leaders of the community are not expressing their open support to either of them.

People from the Maratha and Kuruba communities also form a sizeable section of the population, but they are keeping their cards close to their chest as to who their choice is. Srimant Patil belongs to the Maratha community. Prataprao Patil is from the Kuruba community and also carries the legacy of his father, the late V L Patil, a former minister.

The Chikodi constituency has about 3.82 lakh Lingayat voters (Panchamasali 2.11 lakh and Banajiga 47,000), Kuruba 1.72 lakh, Muslim 1.56 lakh, SCs 1.52 lakh, Maratha 1.46 lakh, Jain 1.27 lakh, STs 92,000, Brahmins 38,000, Christians 4,000 and others 1.66 lakh.

Hukkeri and Katti appear to have the edge in their respective regions. Voters in the Chikodi-Sadalga Assembly constituency say they support Hukkeri, while those in Hukkeri Assembly constituency (his taluk) say they favour Katti.

Soft corner

Residents in Yamakanamaradi Assembly constituency have a soft corner for Katti, as he belongs to their taluk (Hukkeri).

Sugar cane price politics seems to have taken a back seat in the constituency for now. With the sugar cane harvesting and crushing season almost over, people and farmers are not speaking on the issue any more.

The Sugar minister has failed to ensure that farmers get Rs 2,500 per tonne of the produce supplied, as assured. He owns sugar factories too. BJP candidate Katti also has two sugar factories under his control, one in the co-operative sector and the other private. His factories too have reportedly not paid the prices announced by the government. JD(S) candidate Patil runs a sugar factory, too.

The BJP has five legislators from the constituency, including Umesh Katti (brother of the BJP candidate).

The Congress has two legislators - Hukkeri and Satish Jarkiholi, the Excise and district incharge minister. The BSR Congress has one legislator.

BSR Congress legislator P Rajeev has been keeping a low profile since party founder B Sriramulu has joined the BJP and is the party candidate from Bellary Lok Sabha constituency.

The Urs ritual scheduled on voting day at a dargah at Kudachi may lead to 40 per cent of the Muslims staying away from the polling booths.

Pushing Prakash Hukkeri into the Lok Sabha election arena is seen as a move by Jarkiholi to ‘neutralise him’ in the politics of the district and State. Jarkiholi had joined the Congress along with Chief Minister Siddaramaiah.

Others in the fray include Ashfaq Madaki of AAP and five Independents.
People in the constituency have the last word, saying that electioneering in the last four days would decide the fate of the candidates.

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