At Athani, Savadi stands to lose more than candidates

Laxman S Savadi. (DH Photo)

The Athani bypoll has hurled a unique challenge at Deputy Chief Minister Laxman Savadi, who is forced to ensure the victory of his former political opponent Mahesh Kumathalli, risking his own future prospects in that process.

Only a BJP win at Athani will help improve his dwindling fortunes in the Cabinet, even as the Congress has gone all guns blazing to ensure Kumathalli's defeat and hit the political future of Savadi - touted to be among Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa’s successors.

Savadi is caught between the crossroads of impressing his political bosses on one hand, while taking steps to prevent Athani constituency from slipping beyond his control. Kumathalli, a Panchamasali Lingayat, is dependent on his community votes to replicate his electoral success recorded against Savadi with a Congress ticket in 2018.

However, reluctance of several Savadi's supporters to come to terms with this arrangement might turn out to be a blessing for Congress candidate Gajanan Mangasuli. Gajanan is the only serious contender in fray, as electors have preferred candidates from national parties over others in the past few elections.

Sensing an opportunity to upset the BJP's plans in Athani, Congress has deputed two prominent leaders from the region - former minister M B Patil and Congress legislator Laxmi Hebbalkar.

The BJP has based its campaign on the personal stature of Savadi and how he was rewarded by appointing him as DyCM. Chief minister B S Yediyurappa has promised another ministerial berth to the constituency if Mahesh is elected from Athani.

The Congress, meanwhile, has based its campaign on how the Mahesh - who rebelled from the Congress - had ignored the plight of the voters who were affected by one of the worst floods along the banks of River Krishna in recent memory.

Reflecting the complex political calculus of the constituency is the fact that Gajanan has sought blessings of Savadi by bowing down to him in public even after his candidature from the Congress was announced.

JD(S) not in fray

The JD(S), which has negligible support in Athani, has withdrawn its candidate and maintained that it was not backing anybody. Despite Savadi's electoral setback in 20187, local observers believe that his last minute instruction to supporters could swing a few thousand crucial votes in either direction.

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