BJP’s Raju Kage joins Congress

BJP rebel leader Raju Kage holds the Congress flag after it was handed over to him by KPCC chief Dinesh Gundu Rao (second from right) at a ceremony to induct him into the party in Bengaluru on Thursday. Leader of the Opposition Siddaramaiah and KPCC worki

BJP rebel Raju Kage on Thursday formally joined the Congress. He is likely to be the Congress’ candidate from Kagwad. 

Kage, a 4-time MLA, was welcomed into the party by Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Siddaramaiah and KPCC president Dinesh Gundu Rao. 

“Kage’s induction gives our party strength in Belagavi district,” Siddaramaiah said. In the May 2018 polls, Kage had lost against Congress’ now-disqualified Shrimant Patil.

“Patil is now disqualified. And so is Mahesh Kumathalli (Athani) and Ramesh Jarkiholi (Gokak). They will have to face the election with the taint of being disqualified,” he said. 

The Congress leaders also huddled to discuss candidates for seven seats - Athani, Kagwad, Gokak, Vijayanagar, Yeshwantpur, Shivajinagar and KR Pet. The party has already finalized candidates in most of these constituencies. Several senior leaders such as K H Munipappa, B K Hariprasad, G Parameshwara, H K Patil, D K Shivakumar among others did not attend the meeting. 

Asked whether Kage will be given ticket from Kagwad, Siddaramaiah said it will be decided by the party’s high command. “By Friday, we will finalize candidates for all the seven seats,” he said. 

At Gokak, the party is considering fielding Lakhan Jarkiholi, the youngest of the Jarkiholi brothers, to take on disqualified rebel Ramesh Jarkiholi. 

The party is also undecided on fielding MLC Rizwan Arshad from Shivajinagar. Apparently, former MLC Saleem Ahmed is in the race. A section of leaders is against fielding Arshad as he successively lost two Lok Sabha polls from Bangalore Central.

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