Will sympathy wave help Kusuma win Kundgol?

Her late husband Shivalli was an iconic figure in the constituency.

Hubballi: The little town of Kundgol, 21 km from the commercial city of Hubballi, is more of a cultural hub than a centre of politics with Hindustani music deeply entrenched in the lives of its people.

The 400-year-old palatial Nadgir Wada bungalow has served as an auditorium for thousand of performances. While big landlords have taken control of the politics in many parts of the country after introduction of the land ceiling reforms, the Nadgir family in Kundgol has continued to nurture Hindustani classical music since the early 19th century and stayed away from politics.

In fact, although Lingayats and Kurubas have represented the constituency for years, no one family has dominated its politics. The deceased former minister, C.S. Shivalli was an iconic figure in Kundgol as he was always helpful to the poor and a humble man, who was liked by everyone, cutting across caste and religion. His death has caused a leadership vacuum in Kundgol Congress and the party's move to field his wife, Kusuma, in the bypoll has been greeted by scepticism as she has been a housewife all her life. A close fight is on the cards between her and former legislator S.I. Chikkangoudar of the BJP this coming bypoll with the caste equation expected to help both candidates. The Congress is banking on Kurubas, who constitute third largest segment after Lingayats and Muslims, as Ms Kusuma Shivalli is a Kuruba. Former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, who too belongs to the community, is campaigning hard in the constituency to see that it backs her.

While Mr Chikkanagoudar, who belongs to the Panchamasali sect of Lingayats, is confident of support from the community, pacifying another ticket aspirant, M R Patil, of the same community, has become a daunting task for the BJP as lack of support from him may jeopardise its chances.

Ms Kusuma is banking heavily on sympathy factor and the BJP too is trying to appeal to voters on the fact that it had lost the Assembly election with a slender margin of 634 votes.

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