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Lok Sabha Elections 2024: Belagavi’s political families ‘armtwisting’ voters

A noted lawyer-activist from Athani told DH that these rich families, across parties, are always trying to find ways to use their factory network to ensure that farmers vote in their favour or help defeat rivals.
Last Updated : 05 May 2024, 23:01 IST
Last Updated : 05 May 2024, 23:01 IST

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Politics in Belagavi, which sends 18 members to the Assembly, revolves around powerful families and their businesses.

Most of the families - Jarkiholis, Jolles, Savadis, Kores, Kattis and now Hebbalkars - either own sugar factories or control
cooperative institutions. The clout is used to gain power or topple rivals. 

Belagavi district has 27 sugar factories, highest in the state, with a daily crushing capacity of 1.55 lakh tonnes of sugarcane. 

In the state, there are 73 sugar factories, with a total crushing capacity of 4.33 lakh tonnes per day. Most of these factories are owned by politicians.  

Sugar factories and co-operative institutions play an important role in shaping the local economy, especially in rural areas.

A noted lawyer-activist from Athani told DH that these rich families, across parties, are always trying to find ways to use their factory network to ensure that farmers vote in their favour or help defeat rivals.

“As per existing laws, the state government allows establishment of a sugar factory every 15 km, which means two factories in a radius of 30 km. This law indirectly helps sugar factories to have complete control over farmers, farm labourers and villages in the area,” he said.

A farmer activist from Savadatti told DH that sugar factories run by politicians often ‘force’ villagers to vote in favour of these leaders or against their rivals. 

“If any village refuses to oblige, the leader may prevent his factory as well as those of his friends from buying sugarcane from farmers in the said village. The farmers here will end up suffering losses and the economy of the village goes for a toss,” he said. 

A milk cooperative headed by a leader may refuse to collect milk from dairy farmers who refuse to fall in line with his or her instructions. Cooperative banks controlled by politicians may refuse to give loans to residents of villages that don’t vote for them. 

Sugarcane Farmers Association president Kurubur Shantakumar told DH that politicians cutting across party lines are known for fleecing farmers in many ways.

“These politicians, through agents and sub-agents, ensure that sugarcane growers borrow from them to meet initial expenditure of sowing and for buying quality fertilisers. A cane grower needs at least Rs 1 lakh for an acre of sugarcane. The indebted farmer has no option but sell the produce to the factory owned by the benefactor leader,” Shantakumar said. 

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Published 05 May 2024, 23:01 IST

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