Patil eyes split in Lingayat votes to stop Udasi

BJP MP Shivakumar Udasi, who is seeking re-election to the Parliament for the third term from Haveri Lok Sabha Constituency, is facing relatively a tough job as the Congress has changed its strategy to wrest the seat from the BJP.

The Congress, which had fielded Muslim candidates in the last few elections here, has changed its plan this time and pitted D R Patil, a Namada Reddy and a four-time Gadag MLA, against Udasi.

Though there are eight other candidates, including BSP’s Ayub Khan Pathan, in the fray, the contest is between the Congress and the BJP.

The battle has gained significance, and is expected to witness more twists and turns, and eventually may spring a surprise. Because, both the candidates - D R Patil, a seasoned politician, and Shivakumar Udasi, a corporate-style young leader, are powerful in their own ways.

Politics run in their blood and they are shrewd politicians. It will be interesting to see who will use what game plan to have the last laugh.

Haveri Lok Sabha constituency, which was earlier known as Dharwad South, has been a Congress’ stronghold as the party has won 12 times in the last 15 general elections. It won 11 elections continuously from 1952 to 1996. In 1998, Lok Shakti candidate B M Menasinkai ended Congress’ winning spree. He repeated the feat in 1999. The BJP had won the seat for the first time in 2004 and retained it in the 2009 and 2014.

Shivakumar Udasi, son of a senior BJP leader and former minister C M Udasi, got elected to the Parliament in 2009 with a margin of 87,920 votes against Salim Ahmed of the Congress. Udasi, a Banajiga-Lingayat, retained the seat in 2014 election. Now he is seeking re-election for the third consecutive term.

Congress’ decision to field D R Patil this time has encouraged many party leaders, who had stayed away from electioneering activities during previous polls. Patil, who maintained a clean image, has friends and followers in all communities.

The outcome of the elections will largely depends on how Udasi will manage to keep intact the traditional BJP votes apart from dividing minorities and OBCs votes, and what card Patil will play to break into the BJP’s traditional vote bank, apart from retaining the Congress’ traditional SCs, STs and OBC votes.

Eyeing hat-trick win

Udasi is confident of winning this time too. He says his performance in Parliament, responding to people’s grievances, bringing a maximum number of central schemes and implementing Amruth Scheme, railway projects would help him get more votes.

“Besides, Parliamentary elections are fought on national issues and people want Modi government at the centre for one more time. That advantage also I have,” he said.

But his rivals attribute his victory in the previous elections to ‘waves’ rather than his own capability and achievements.

‘Not a new face’

D R Patil, a gentleman-politician, is a cousin of former minister H K Patil. His interest in Swami Vivekanand’s principles has earned him friends even in the saffron party. Patil adds: “My contribution to farm and co-operative sectors during my
stint as ZP vice-president and MLA will keep me in good stead. Also, I command the same acceptance and respect in Haveri like I have in my home district Gadag.”

According to political analysts, Patil may give Udasi run for his money if he could, along with SCs/STs, minorities and OBC votes, manage to eat into Lingayat votes.

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