The straight contest between two main candidates in 2009 has returned to the Haveri parliamentary constituency this time too, but with changed equations and tougher competition.
Sitting MP Shivakumar Udasi of the BJP and Congress candidate Saleem Ahmed are rivals once again. Among a total of 19 candidates, JD(S) nominee Ravi Menasinkai may become a game changer. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has fielded H M Sirquazi.
Haveri constituency consists of eight Assembly segments: Haveri, Hangal, Byadagi, Ranebennur and Hirekerur in Haveri district, and Shirahatti, Gadag and Ron in Gadag district. Seven MLAs belong to the Congress and the BJP has just one. U B Banakar, who won the Hirekerur seat on the KJP ticket, is now with the BJP. Ahmed feels this situation would help him, while Udasi says the Congress MLAs and the State government face anti-incumbency.
Before delimitation, this constituency was called Dharwad South. After delimitation, it lost Shiggaon and Kundgol Assembly segments but got Gadag and Ron.
To his credit, Udasi has attended more than 300 days of parliament proceedings and was the main speaker in the debate on two bills. At the local level, he claims credit for construction of a railway overbridge in Haveri, approval for Kendriya Vidyalayas in Haveri and Gadag, works related to Gadag-Wadi and Gadag-Haveri railway lines and better facilities for farmers. His father and former minister C M Udasi’s sway over the region and B S Yeddyurappa’s clout may help him. But his opponents claim he rarely visited many areas.
As for Ahmed, he dismisses the “outsider” tag. “Even when I was the director general of Nehru Yuva Kendra Sanghatan, I conducted several programmes in Haveri and helped youth clubs,” he said. Many voters sympathise with him as he lost the last election. But the BJP alleges he had no contact with the constituency ever since. Menasinkai, who is contesting for the first time, has focused on local issues. His father B M Menasinkai was an MP from this constituency.
Farmers’ issues like failure of cotton crop and irrigation also figure in electoral discussions. Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha leader Ravindragouda Patil has urged farmers to opt for NOTA (None Of The Above).
Haveri is where Yeddyurappa joined the KJP officially. He and his staunch supporter C M Udasi have now returned to the BJP. In the Assembly elections, the BJP and the KJP together gained more votes than the winning candidates of the Congress in three seats. The unity between the KJP and the BJP at the grassroots level is significant. But many people feel that not all BJP and KJP workers have united. D R Patil, a close relative of minister Patil, aspired for the Congress ticket. While his supporters are campaigning for Ahmed, many are said to be not very enthusiastic as Patil could not get the ticket.
The Congress has been fielding Muslims in this constituency (previously Dharwad South) since 1962, but Shiggaon and Savanur, two taluks with significant Muslim population, are not with Haveri constituency anymore. There are more than 2.5 lakh Muslim voters, about 5.50 lakh Lingayats and nearly two lakh Kuruba. While the Congress is trying to consolidate Ahinda votes, including Muslims and Kurubas, the BJP is eyeing Lingayat votes. But the JD(S) can spoil their prospects by garnering Lingayat votes from the BJP and Muslim votes from the Congress.