Kulkarni plays Lingayat card in Dharwad

Congress candidate Vinay Kulkarni

Will Congress candidate Vinay Kulkarni’s attempt to play caste card succeed in taking him to Parliament? This is the question being debated hotly in Dharwad.

Kulkarni is facing sitting MP Pralhad Joshi (BJP), who is seeking a fourth term in a row. While Joshi is seeking votes in the name of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his (Joshi’s) contribution for the development of the constituency over the years, Kulkarni has chosen targeting Joshi personally and his failures.

Fielded by the Congress at the last moment, a desperate Kulkarni is seeking votes from Lingayat community en bloc.

Kulkarni belongs to the Panchamasali Lingayat sect. Being a major community in the constituency, Lingayats have been supporting BJP and electing a non-Lingayat. The time has come for the community to be united to support a Lingayat. There is nothing wrong in me asking my community to vote for me en bloc, says Kulkarni.

While caste plays a dominant role in elections in north Karnataka, it is not the case with Dharwad constituency. The history of the constituency indicates that right from 1952 to 2014, the voters have elected the candidates considering their party and not seen the credentials or the caste of the candidate. In a constituency where nearly 40% (6 lakh out of 16.80 lakh) of the voters are Lingayats, except Vijay Sankeshwar (1996), no Lingayat has won.

From 1952 to 1991, it was Congress candidates D P Karmarkar, Sarojini Mahishi (Brahmins) and D K Naikar (Kuruba) of Congress who ruled the roost, while from 1996 till date it has been the fiefdom of BJP. Pralhad Joshi (Brahmin) has been elected thrice after Sankeshwar dropped out after winning thrice. Kulkarni’s selection as the candidate this time has surprised many as everybody was hoping that either a Muslim candidate or a Lingayat other than Kulkarni would be fielded. It was Siddaramaiah who succeeded in getting Kulkarni the ticket.

While Joshi has finished two rounds of campaigning. Kulkarni is left to fend for himself as no national level leader has campaigned for him.

Joshi told DH that he could get some schemes implemented in the constituency like Ujwala, installation of gas pipeline, construction of roads, upgrading Hubballi airport, inclusion of Hubballi under Udan scheme, establishment of IIT in Dharwad and construction of a hi-tech sports complex by getting funds from the Centre and CSR funds from ONGC and other petroleum companies. He is asking voters to support Modi to become Prime Minister again. However, Kulkarni is harping on the failures of Joshi. Instead of criticising the BJP’s policies and programmes, Kulkarni has chosen to attack Joshi at a personal level. He told DH that the circumstances had compelled him to seek votes on caste basis.

Political analysts say unlike in other constituencies, Kulkarni does not face rebellion here. But there is an undercurrent of anger among Muslims who feel that he had snatched the ticket that their community deserved. “This may impact in Muslims not coming out to vote in large numbers, though they are unlikely to shift towards BJP,” they said.

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