Old warhorse Koliwad faces novice Guttur

K B Koliwad

A major business centre in Haveri district, known for sheep rearing and cotton business, Ranebennur has not seen much development over the years.

The problems like bad roads, shortage of drinking water, and lack of irrigation facilities despite being close to Tungabhadra haunt Ranebennur constituency, where caste equation has played a dominant role in the Assembly elections.

The by-election to the constituency has been necessitated as incumbent R Shankar of KPJP was disqualified by then-Speaker Ramesh Kumar. This election has provided an opportunity to 75-year-old five-time MLA K B Koliwad of the Congress, who was contemplating retirement from electoral politics after losing in 2018, to try his luck, perhaps for one last time.

Koliwad will take on the political novices Arunkumar Guttur of the BJP and Mallikarjun Halageri of the JD(S).

Though on record it is a triangular contest, the real fight is between Koliwad and Arunkumar. Wary of the Congress-JD(S) determination to defeat the candidates who had ditched their parties and secured BJP ticket, the saffron party decided not to field R Shankar, who has lost his credibility among voters due to party-hopping and long absence from the constituency, and instead chose Arunkumar.

While Koliwad is a Reddi Lingayat, Arunkumar belongs to Panchamasali Lingayat community. The constituency has a total number of 2,32,828 voters. Of them Lingayats are 80,000, SC/STs 45,000, Kurubas 30,000, and Muslims 20,000.

Koliwad, a law graduate and a practising lawyer, has won five times and lost as many. He was the minister for drinking water in S M Krishna’s Cabinet, and later during Siddaramaiah’s regime, he’d served as Speaker of the Assembly.

In 2018, Koliwad lost to KPJP candidate R Shankar, who belongs to the Kuruba community. The BJP has assigned the responsibility of taking the party candidate across the line to Shankar, Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai and MP G M Siddeshwar. These three are expected to ensure that the votes of Kurubas, Sadar Lingayats, and Panchamasali Lingayats do not go away from the BJP.

Shankar, who has been promised a berth in the cabinet, has been campaigning briskly for Guttur. “The displeasure of the people towards Shankar may affect Arunkumar’s prospects,” said a senior leader.

Koliwad is seeking sympathy votes telling the people that this would be his last election. However, things will not be easy for him. Soon after his loss in 2018, Koliwad had blamed Siddaramaiah for his defeat alleging that the CLP leader had also masterminded the defeat of several other Congress candidates. The members of Kuruba community have not taken his remarks kindly. In addition, the people blame Koliwad for abetting rampant illegal sand mining in the taluk.

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