Q&A: Will Gurmitkal JD(S) MLA Nagangouda Kandakur back Mallikarjun Kharge?
The Gurmitkal Reserved Assembly constituency, which elected Mallikarjun Kharge eight times consecutively to the Assembly since he first contested in 1972, has played a vital role in shaping his political career. Even after Gurmitkal became a general seat following delimitation in 2008, the seat has played a vital part in the victory of Kharge as it is part of the Kalaburagi Lok Sabha seat. While Kharge got a lead of 6,000 votes in the 2009 Lok Sabha election, he improved it to around 19,000 contributing significantly to his victory margin of over 74,000 votes in the 2014 election. It is significant to note here that in 2009 and 2014 when Mr Kharge got a lead in this Assembly segment, his successor Baburao Chinchansur represented the Congress in the Assembly. He is now in the BJP. Nor is Gurmitkal in Congress hands after the victory of Nagangouda Kandakur on a JD(S) ticket.
Mr Kharge had fought a long political battle against two important families in Yadgir area –One the Mudnal family and second the Kandakur family- and eventually succeeded in subduing them. His fight with the Kandakur family was so intense that he is alleged to have used to his clout to register 25 cases against the present sitting MLA and got him also booked under the Goonda Act.
Another major development in the constituency is that of his one –time trusted lieutenant Baburao Chinchansur turning foe.
Kharge, with a view to safeguard his son Priyank’s political career, had foisted Baburao Chinchansur on the people of Gurmitkal, although there was resistance from many local leaders as he was an outsider. Kharge took this step as he needed to keep intact the Kabbaliga vote bank (Chinchansur belongs to the Kabbaliga community) not only in Gurumitkal but also in Chittapur where Priyank Kharge is the legislator.
But Chinchansur who was divested of his ministerial portfolio and defeated in the 2018 Assembly election in Gurmitkal, joined BJP with the single agenda, `Kharge hatao`(remove Kharge ). Political analysts are waiting to see if sitting JD(S) MLA of Gurmitkal Nagangouda Kandakur further queers the pitch for Kharge by firing a salvo at him. Or will he grudgingly obey the diktat of the JD(S) high command to back the veteran leader? Here are excerpts from an interview.
You represent Gurmitkal which Mallikarjun Kharge represented seven times from 1972 to 2008. You and Mr Kharge were traditional rivals in the constituency for more than three decades. But your party and the Congress are jointly fighting the election against BJP now. What is your stance in this poll- will you work for Mr Kharge or not?
In 1972 I entered politics as member of the Swatantra Party and it was in that year that Kharge got elected the first time from Gurmitkal. In 1978 I joined the Janata Party. Till 2008 when Mr Kharge exited from Gurmitkal, I fought against the Congress, especially Mr Kharge as Gurmitkal is my home constituency.
Now the kalachakra (the wheel of time) has changed in view of Congress and JD(S) being coalition partners. It is natural for people and the media to ask me what is your stand vis-a-vis Mr Kharge? My reply is that I will abide by the decision of my high command. Mr Kharge may have contacted Kumaraswamy (CM) and the latter may give me some directions later.
Is this not a piquant situation for you—you suffered a lot at the hands of Mr Kharge who allegedly got many cases registered against you.
I admit that. This situation of (JD-S workers forced to join hands with Congress) prevails not only in Gurmitkal but in many constituencies. Even though leaders of both parties are joining hands in the name of adhering to the coalition dharma, the workers are not. We have to get rid of discontent among workers and make them work together, which I feel is a herculean task.
Is this decision to support Congress in Gurmitkal your own or that of party workers?
I’m in regular touch with party workers and I can read their pulse. I have held a preliminary round of discussions with my party leaders and informed them that we cannot reject the decision of the high command.
When it came to eliminating his enemies Mr Kharge never showed any mercy. Now when you seem to have an upper hand, you are forced to extend your hand of friendship to your enemy?
Even though this a difficult situation we have to do a balancing act. I have met Mr Deve Gowda and Mr Kumaraswamy and revealed the situation in my constituency - how I fought, how I was victimised by Mr Kharge and what would happen if I support Mr Kharge in this election. They told me “let us wait and see how the situation unfolds”. I’m waiting for their directions. I admit that to protect his political interests, Mr Kharge never spared an opportunity to finish off his opponents. But I have no hesitation in declaring that my loyalty to JD(S) is much more than Kharge’s loyalty to Congress.
Do you expect Mr Kharge to speak to you to seek your cooperation or you will just follow the party’s direction whether Mr Kharge seeks your support or not?
Mr Kharge has not contacted me so far; I can’t say whether he will do it after filing his nomination papers. But I have told my followers that we should keep aside our 35 years of bitter enmity and be prepared to follow the high command’s decision. A single discordant voice will send a wrong message and it should not embarrass the high command.