Cong, BJP eye each other’s vote banks in Gulbarga

Cong, BJP eye each other’s vote banks in Gulbarga

BJP national vice president Shivraj Singh Chouhan greets party candidate from Gulbarga Umesh Jadhav during campaigning at Ganesh Mandir in Kalaburagi recently. Party leader Malikayya Guttedar, state general secretary Ravikumar and others look on. DH PHOTO

Veteran Congress leader M Mallikarjun Kharge, who is facing his most-difficult poll battle in his career, seems to have set his eyes on upper community votes (Lingayat), thanks to rivals “who have joined hands to trounce him”.

The BJP, which seems to be hell bent on wresting the LS segment from the Congress, is leaving no stone unturned to lure voters from Dalit and backward communities, which are said to be in the pocket of the Congress due to the Kharge factor.

Cong’s Lingayat meet

As Gulbarga (SC reserved) is being billed as a high-voltage constituency in the state for various reasons, the Congress is trying its best to send a message that all Lingayat voters are not in favour of the BJP, by organising as Veerashaiva-Lingayat convention here on April 12.

Veerashaiva-Lingayat leaders - former minister Shamanur Shivashankarappa, Bhimanna Khandre, Home Minister M B Patil and other Lingayat leaders - are expected to take part. When the agitation for separate religious status for Lingayats was at its peak before the last Assembly polls, a convention was organised in Kalaburagi city.

Of the ministers who demanded separate religion status for Lingayats in the Siddaramaiah government, M B Patil alone was re-elected in the 2018 assembly polls. Others like Sharanaprakash Patil and Vinay Kulkarni tasted defeat.

Shivashankarappa, who has been on good terms with Kharge, told DH that they had forgotten what happened earlier with regard to separate status for Lingayats.

All Lingayat and Veerashaiva leaders have buried their differences and are now united. “Our aim is to ensure the victory of Kharge. I will take part in the convention in Kalaburagi,” he said.

Another Lingayat leader and former MLA B R Patil said that the BJP was misleading Lingayat voters. The Congress has also a galaxy of Lingayat leaders. Kharge victory is certain this time too, he said.

But the big worry for Kharge is Gurmitkal JD(S) MLA Naganagouda Kandkur. Gurmitkal was Kharge’s bastion, before he moved to Chittapur constituency, post-delimitation.

Kandkur has had a bitter experience with Congress leaders in his constituency. The Congress is trying its best to cajole him into working for Kharge, citing the coalition at the state level. But the MLA has kept his cards close to his chest. 

After leaders like late S Nijalingappa and Veerendra Patil, state BJP president B S Yeddyurappa emerged as a Lingayat community leader. He wields influence in Hyderabad-Karnataka and Mumbai-Karnataka regions.

Because of the Yeddyurappa factor, the BJP got a major share of Lingayat votes in the last two Lok Sabha elections in Kalaburagi.

A Congress leader argued that Kharge will get re-elected if he gets as many Lingayat votes as he received in the last two Lok Sabha polls.

BJP’s dalit convention

To counter the Congress, the BJP has organised a convention of backward classes on April 13. The idea behind organising it is to send a message that the people from backward classes too are with the BJP. Leaders K S Eshwarappa, B J Puttaswamy, K P Nanjundi and others will take part.