Umesh Gopaldev Jadhav, the doctor who shunned medical practice to enter politics, has renewed the BJP’s hopes to wrest the Gulbarga Lok Sabha seat from veteran Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge.
Jadhav, who hails from the Banjara community, resigned as Congress’ Chincholi legislator on Monday. He was formally inducted into the BJP by its state president B S Yeddyurappa at a rally addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday.
The BJP is hellbent to wrest Gulbarga, a seat that has been the Congress’ fort since 1977. The saffron party has managed to win Gulbarga only once when Basavaraj Patil Sedam defeated Qamarul Islam of the Janata Dal and B G Jawali of the Congress in 1998.
Political circles are abuzz with talk that Kharge, a nine-time MLA and two-term Lok Sabha member who has never tasted electoral defeat, could face a tough election this time because forces have ganged up against him.
Sources point out that this time, Kharge will not enjoy the support of leaders such as Malikayya Guttedar and Baburao Chinchansur, who were earlier with the Congress before switching to the BJP.
“The narrative being stitched is that Kharge has snubbed the growth of other leaders in the Kalaburagi districts, except that of his son,” a Congress leader said. Kharge’s son is Social Welfare Minister Priyank Kharge. In fact, this is said to be one of the prime reasons for Jadhav’s disgruntlement, leading to his resignation.
The BJP is also looking to consolidate caste-based votes in its favour. Mainly, the saffron party will bank on Lingayats - they have traditionally voted for the BJP - and those of the Banjaras, Billavas (Chinchansur’s community) and Idigas (Guttedar’s community). The Congress is looking to consolidate the remaining SC, backward classes and minority votes in favour of Kharge, a Dalit.
The Gulbarga Lok Sabha seat comprises eight assembly constituencies, of which the Congress holds four, the BJP three and the JD(S) one.
The Kharge camp argues that Jadhav will be at a loss since his Chincholi Assembly constituency falls under the Bidar Lok Sabha seat.
The BJP-represented Aland assembly constituency, which is in Kalaburagi district, also falls under Bidar. “Jadhav does not have the sway over Kalaburagi like Kharge does,” a Congress leader close to Kharge said.
“There will be anti-incumbency for anybody who has been around for so long, but Kharge has the reputation of a worker and that’s the reason people like him.”