Guttedar banks on clout, but caste arithmetic holds key to victory

BJP State President B S Yeddyurappa and BJP Candidate Subhash Guttedar at BJP Public Meeting at Aland in Kalaburagi District on Monday. - Photo/ Prashanth HG

A look at the history of Afzalpur constituency shows that parties have little influence here and it is the candidates’ calibre that reigns supreme.

Sitting MLA Malikayya Guttedar has won the constituency six times in the past and is seeking re-election for the seventh time. Of the six times — four times he has won from Congress, once each from KCP (Karnataka Congress Party) and JD(S).

Guttedar’s arch rival, Malakajappa Y Patil, has contested against him from the Congress, JD(S), BJP and KJP. Patil, who had won the election in 1978 from the erstwhile Janata Party, again won the election in 2004 on a JD(S) ticket defeating Guttedar, who then contested from Congress.

In this election, Guttedar, who belongs to Idiga community and was in the Congress, is contesting from BJP, while Patil, who belongs to Lingayat community and was in BJP, is contesting from the Congress.

The constituency has been in the news after Guttedar quit Congress, accusing Kalaburagi MP Mallikarjuna Kharge of depriving him of ministership, in favour of his son Priyank Kharge.

Since then the constituency has turned into a political hotbed with friends turning foes and vice-versa.

During the recent poll campaign meeting in Afzalpur, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah asked voters not to vote for Guttedar, stating he was not worthy of trust.

Mallikarjuna Kharge and his minister son Priyank Kharge too are campaigning in the region to ensure the victory of Patil as Guttedar is campaigning against Priyank in Chittapur.

BJP chief ministerial candidate Yeddyurappa, while seeking votes for Guttedar, stated that Congress had meted out injustice to him and promised to make Guttedar a minister if BJP comes to power.

For Guttedar, who belongs to the influential VKG (Venkanna Koosaiah Guttedar) family that holds sway over the constituency, winning the constituency has become a matter of prestige.

However, there are complaints that despite being legislator for so long, Guttedar didn’t develop the constituency to its full potential and the major development works, except the dam across River Bhima, have come mainly in the last five years.

“The family rules like feudals and any voice against them is either bought or crushed,” said a contractor.

The constituency has a large population of Lingayats, followed by Kurubas and Kolis, SC/STs, Muslims and other backward castes. Total voters in the constituency are 2.18 lakh, with 1.12 lakh males and 1.06 lakh females.

With Guttedar coming to BJP, one has to see whether Muslims will continue to vote for him. Guttedar, though, is confident to get Muslim votes.

In the previous election, the votes of Lingayat, who have traditionally backed BJP, were split between BJP and KJP, but now it is not the case.

Guttedar stands to gain if they support the party.

For Patil, being in Congress can help him gain votes of minorities, SC/STs and OBCs, who have traditionally favoured the party. Whether he gets votes of Lingayat votes remains to be seen.

Rajendra Kumar of JD(S), who also belongs to Lingayat community, is not a major force compared to Guttedar or Patil. However, the votes gained by him can significantly affect their prospects.

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