In pursuit of hat-trick, Kharge faces uphill task

Mallikarjun Kharge

Gulbarga Lok Sabha constituency, billed as high-profile in Hyderabad Karnataka region, has turned into a war field between the BJP and the Congress, after BJP candidate Dr Umesh Jadhav, who represented Chincholi Assembly segment twice, switched to the saffron party to take on Congress’ Mallikarjun Kharge.

Kharge, who remained unbeaten nine times in Assembly polls and twice in Lok Sabha elections, in his career of 47 years, is facing stiff competition from the BJP this time.

The election is being projected as a fight between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Kharge as there are talks that Modi and Amit Shah has taken special interest to trounce the veteran Congress leader.

Both Modi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi visited Kalaburagi for campaigning last month. Realising the neck-to-neck fight, the Congress is holding caste-based conventions to send a message that Kharge is enjoying support from all communities. The BJP has also resorted to similar strategy.

What has worried Kharge is former ministers Malikayya Guttedar, Baburao Chinchansur and A B Malakaraddi jumping ship to the BJP, to defeat him.

Miffed at Kharge for “suppressing them in politics” to promote his son and Social Welfare Minister Priyank Kharge, they quit the Congress. Some Congress leaders are said to be peeved at the arrogant behaviour of Priyank.

Except Chincholi Assembly segment, where he was MLA, Jadhav is an unfamiliar face in this Lok Sabha constituency. He is completely banking on the Modi wave and voters of upper castes and Banjara
community. 

The fact that the Chincholi Assembly segment, which Jadhav represented twice, and Aland, represented by a BJP MLA, come under Bidar Lok Sabha segment is a major setback for the BJP candidate. The BJP has no issues on the basis of which it can seek votes.

Pluses for Kharge

Mallikarjun Kharge is seeking votes based on the developmental works he took up as MP. His efforts in granting special status under Article 371(J) to Hyderabad-Karnataka region during the previous UPA rule has been a boon for him.

He is also taking credit for getting the ESIC Hospital and Central University of Karnataka established here.

Going by caste equations, Lingayats, with an estimated voters of six lakh, has been considered as the vote bank for BJP. The Congress is likely to get about 25-30% of Lingayat votes.

The Scheduled Castes (right Holeya) community, which has about three lakh voters, has strongly stood behind Kharge, who belongs to the same community.

Votes of the SC (left-Madiga) community, said to be traditional voters of the BJP, are expected to be split this time as K B Shanappa of the community switched to the Congress from the BJP. Muslim votes are in the pocket of the Congress. The Koli community is likely to be split between the two parties.

Banjara community leaders like former minister Revu Naik Belamagi who contested twice as BJP candidate against Kharge is in the JD(S) now. Subash Rathore and former minister Baburao Chavan have joined the Congress, as they were denied tickets by the BJP. 

Mallikarjun Kharge said the election should be fought on the basis of development works taken up by the candidates, but not on Modi wave.

A BJP functionary said, “All leaders and MLAs of BJP are making honest and concerted efforts, Jadhav will emerge victorious. We are banking on Modi wave,” he said.

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