B C Patil, Bannikod locked in do-or-die battle

The Hirekerur assembly constituency has been in the limelight ever since outgoing MLA B C Patil started demanding ministerial berth in the previous coalition government. 

The Congress is facing its arch-rival Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in a direct fight in Hirekerur constituency as the Janata Dal (S) candidate has withdrawn from the fray in the last minute.

It’s a ‘do-or-die’ battle for both - BJP’s B C Patil, who risked his political career by resigning to assembly membership, and Congress’ B H Bannikod, a veteran who is contesting the polls after a long gap. Result of this election will decide their political future.

The Hirekerur assembly constituency has been in the limelight ever since outgoing MLA B C Patil started demanding ministerial berth in the previous coalition government. 

Initially, the Hirekerur bypoll was seen as a three-pronged contest. But it eventually turned out to be a direct fight between the Congress and the BJP as JD(S) candidate Shivalinga Shivacharya Swamy of Kabbinkanti Mutt opted out in the last minute. Others in the fray are not expected to make much impact on the outcome of the polls.

It is significant to note here that this time it is the candidates’ personal image and works which are making more sound than the issues the constituency has.

It’s advantage Patil

The changed scenario in state politics has also changed the political equations in the constituency. BJP’s loyal U B Banakar is compelled under the new circumstances to support his bete noire B C Patil, who is contesting on the BJP ticket.

Banakar’s support has certainly come as a shot in the arm for Patil. However, a section of Banakar’s supporters are not ready to support Patil. Banakar, who holds considerable sway over the electorate, had lost the previous assembly elections against Patil by a wafer-thin margin of 555 votes.

Good image

Congress’ candidate B H Banikod is known among the people for his soft nature and good image. He is from a social and political movement background. People of the constituency still remember his efforts in getting the benefits of Upper Tunga Project (UTP) and help the poor get government land.

Besides, he had lost two of his grown-up sons, both political activists - one while staging a protest for a farmers’ cause and another due to illness. This has made people treat Bannikod with sympathy even today.

Caste factor

There are chances of a split in the Lingayat votes, who form a major chunk of the voters in the constituency, as both - Patil and Bannikod belong to the same caste (Lingayat) and sub-caste (Sadar).

Though the defector tag associated with BJP’s candidate Patil is working like an undercurrent. “People know very well that he (B C Patil) sold himself to the BJP, the party which can stoop to any level for power. He even betrayed the voters who voted him in the last election.

Voters will certainly teach him a lesson to the BJP in this election,” said Ponnam Prabhakar, a former MP and AICC observer for Hirekerur constituency.

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