Thursday 13 June 2024

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Politics | Lok Sabha '98

BJP likely to win Belgaum seat


The ruling Janata Dal may lose the traditional Congress seat of Belgaum once again to its predecessors or the Bharatiya Janata Party, thanks to total chaos among the local JD cadres.

Babagouda Patil, the BJP candidate, who had pushed the Congress to the third place in ’96 polls, is contesting once again in a much more organised manner. Its alliance with Lok Shakti is an additional factor here as Ramkrishna Hegde is tremendously popular in the whole Belgaum region.

But equally count would be the Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti, championing the border issue of merging Marathi-speaking regions into Maharashtra. It may spoil the BJP chances once again, if people from Belgaum, Uchagaon and Bagewadi constituencies stood by the MES.

Though Bangarappa’s Karnataka Vikas Party is not a popular force in this region, its existence is enough to disturb the Congress prospects. But they seem to be in a good mood since the Congress has won 11 legislative council seats in the state recently, leaving only 12 to the JD.

Despite Hegde’s influence over the whole district, biggest in the state, Congress had never lost the Belgaum seat since 1951, with ’96 as an exception. While JD swept the polls 18 months ago in the whole state, the Congress had to lose its deposit in Belgaum.

The Congressmen do not deny impact of the JD wave, but equally blame the leadership for not giving ticket to the four-time MP since 1980, S B Sidnal, for the sole reason that he was a strong critic of then prime minister P V Narasimha Rao.

Congress candidate Prabhakar Kore, who was rejected as an "outsider", could poll hardly 15 per cent votes, due to which Sidnal is now brought into picture once again. Besides Sonia Gandhi’s entry, the comeback of their local leader has also enthused the cadres here tremendously.

But the real headache for Sidnal today is Patil, the BJP candidate, whom he had defeated by 46,000 votes in ’91, when latter was the candidate of the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangh. The "hindutvawadis" have suddenly become a force in Belgaum from the time Patil has shifted over to the BJP in ’96.

In fact, poll preparations had begun six months ago, when L K Advani had visited the district town. "With the young cadres coming to the BJP, we are definitely in a position to shift over minimum 25 to 30 per cent votes from the JD", claims Anant Kulkarni, who heads the media cell. Patil had polled around 11 per cent less last time than Shivanand Koujalgi, the MP.

How is it possible, ask the Janata Dal men here, flaying BJP’s claim. The reason is simple. Out of eight Assembly segments, none are held by the BJP today. While five are with the JD, two are with the MES and one with the Congress.

"It does not matter as the JD could take roots here only because of Hegde. He is with us now", claims Kulkarni. "But the cadres are still with us", claims Abhay Haldi, JD’s city president, though he does not deny that Lok Shakti would affect their prospects, but not more than 10 per cent.

He seems to be confident of Koujalgi’s successive victory, thinking that people would reward him for the developmental works he has done during the UF regime. "What the Congress could not do in last 36 years, we have achieved in 18 months and MP’s funds are fully utilised", he claims.

But he does not deny that Koujalgi’s last-minute volte face on making Gokak a district centre of a new district-in-the-offing would hamper his prospects in certain parts of the constituency. The issue of creating a separate district is still unresolved because of the dispute between people from Gokak and Bailhongal over the district centre.

But the issue may not be raked up this time, as all the three major candidates are from Bailhongal and incidentally also Lingayats, the largest minority, having population of around 2.6 lakh in the constituency. Even the Marathi-speaking people have their allegiance to different parties, at least in the Lok Sabha polls.

The community politics has a very little role to play here since the 11.99 lakh people are equally divided into various communities like Lingayats, Maratha, Jains, Shepherds, Brahmins, Muslims, Sindhis, Gujaratis, Marwaris, Sonar, Scheduled Caste, Roman Catholics and Protestants.

Though the confusion among cadres since the time Hegde was expelled and infighting may help the Congress and the BJP, it is difficult to predict who will get an edge over whom even while polling would now take place on 16 February. Neither a strong wave has affected the constituency nor there is any genuine issue to fight for. is now on Telegram & also Youtube. Kindly subscribe for free & remain updated.

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