The Gokak Assembly by-election has turned into a high voltage contest with disqualified legislator Ramesh Jarkiholi, who had spearheaded the defection of Congress and JD(S) MLAs leading to the collapse of the previous coalition government, now in the fray as the BJP candidate battling his younger brother Lakhan, the Congress candidate.
The contest between the Jarkiholi brothers has become the cynosure of all eyes with the war of words intensifying as polling day approaches The chance of ‘match fixing’ between the both brothers to make sure one of them emerges the victor appears remote unlike the 2008 elections when their father campaigned in favour of Ramesh Jarkiholi though another son Bhimshi was in the fray as the BJP candidate.
Earlier, it was predicted that one of the Jarkiholi brothers may stay neutral to avoid a split of their formidable vote-bank so as to ensure Gokak remained their bastion. But this time it is a no-holds barred battle with brotherly ties not coming in the way of the fierce battle.
Meanwhile, JD(S) candidate Ashok Pujari too is leaving no stone unturned to attract voters especially Lingayats who are dominant in the constituency. After facing three consecutive defeats at the hands of Ramesh Jarkiholi, he has intensified his campaign to woo the anti-Jarkiholi voters who are dissatisfied with the family’s dominance in the last two decades.
Pujari, who is a BJP rebel, has also declared that this will be his last election in what seems to be an attempt to gain the sympathy of voters after losing by a margin of over 14,000 votes last year. Sources said that several BJP and Congress leaders are extending indirect support to Pujari to break the Jarkiholi stranglehold on Gokak.
One reassuring factor for Pujari is the fact that the vote bank of the Valmiki/Nayaka community who are present in substantial numbers in Gokak, is expected to be divided between the Jarkiholi brothers who belong to the community. The poll battle has also divided the entire family with former Congress minister Satish Jarkiholi campaigning rigorously for Lakhan while Balachandra Jarkiholi has thrown his weight behind Ramesh.
Savadi backing could change Kumatalli’s fortunes
What has come as a big relief for disqualified MLA and BJP candidate Mahesh Kumatalli in Athani is the decision of his defeated rival in the 2018 assembly poll and current Deputy CM Laxman Savadi to extend his full support to him setting aside all differences. Though he has been facing voters’ ire for resigning so soon from his seat and for not paying enough attention to the flood-ravaged constituency, what could work in his favour is the support of Savadi loyalists who have been promised by none other than the CM that their leader will remain Dy CM for the next three-and-a-half years.
The big concern for both Kumatalli and Savadi is the anger of villagers who feel they were ignored after all the devastation caused by the flood waters of the Krishna river. The delay in disbursement of compensation to the flood victims may also hit the poll prospect of Kumatalli.
The disqualified MLA is therefore content to play second fiddle to his one-time rival Savadi who claims that the by-election is a matter of prestige for him. The BJP has been able to hold on to its youth vote bank with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) having strong roots in both rural and urban areas of the constituency that will help Kumatalli. The disqualified legislator is also banking on the caste factor as he belongs to the dominant Panchamasali sect of the Lingayat community.
As for Congress candidate Gajanan Mangasuli, he is heavily dependent on the Muslims and backward castes apart from the votes of the Lingayats, the community to which he belongs. There could be a split in the Muslim vote bank with an independent candidate, Ibrahim Patel also entering the fray. The Muslim youth leader enjoys good influence in the community, said sources.
It’s a battle of contrasts
It’s a battle of contrasts in Hirekerur with] the flamboyant disqualified MLA B.C. Patil fighting on the BJP ticket against veteran Congress leader B.H. Bannikod. Both Chief Mininister B S. Yediyurappa and Opposition leader Siddaramaiah conducted extensive campaigns in the constituency for 2-3 days to keep their respective parties’ vote banks intact. The BJP has high hopes about the party’s victory as BJP rebel B.G. Banakar is now fully backed B.C. Patil after being allotted a state run board post by the chief minister himself to placate him. Banakar, then the BJP candidate, had lost by a slender margin of 555 votes to Patil last year.
For B.C. Patil, what has come as a bonus is the release of more than Rs 200 crore as grants by the state government for the development of his constituency after he deserted the Congress.
But the Congress candidate and veteran politician B.H. Bannikod is no pushover and is still remembered for his contribution to the implementation of the Upper Tunga Irrigation Project. He may also have sympathy votes coming his way as his son had died in a self immolation attempt while protesting against the delay in distribution of compensation to land losers under the project.
The former legislator is also banking on the traditional Congress vote bank of Muslim, Kurubas and SC/STs. Both the BJP and Congress candidates belong to the dominant Lingayat community that constitutes around 82,000 voters of the total 1,87,000 strong electorate.
The election campaign has already witnessed heated exchanges between B.C. Patil and his former mentor Siddaramaiah who has accused the disqualified legislator of taking crores of rupees as bribe to join the BJP. Chief Minister Yediyurappa enjoys a strong support base in the constituency as Banakar had won on the ticket of the erstwhile KJP from Hirekerur after Yediyurappa had launched his own party deserting the BJP.
Battle royale after role reversal
The roles have been reversed in Kagwad Assembly constituency which is witnessing a direct fight between disqualified legislator and BJP candidate Srimanth Patil who was earlier in the Congress, and Congress candidate Raju Kage who has deserted the BJP after he was denied the party ticket.
Patil has been facing the wrath of voters for staying away from the constituency when people needed him most during the floods caused by the overflowing Krishna river earlier this year. Beating his rival and four-time legislator Raju Kage is no easy task for the Congress nominee is an experienced politician who is banking on the development works he has implemented during the last two decades including drinking water projects and road repairs. Kage can also boast of close ties with voters though he lost by a huge 33,000 votes against Srimanth Patil in the 2018 Assembly election.
The taint of disqualification continues to haunt Patil as he has been facing stiff opposition in many places during the campaign.
Among the 1,85,000 strong electorate, Lingayats dominate followed by SC/STs, Marathas and Kurubas. Kage has been doing his best to woo the Lingayats- the community he belongs to. As for Srimanth Patil, who is a Maratha leader, his strategy is to woo the community and also make sure the Lingayats who have always been considered a vote bank of the BJP, back him.
The JD(S) has fielded Shrishail Tugashetti who deserted the Congress after he failed to get the party ticket. This may lead to a split in the Congress votebank as Tugashetti is a former ZP member and belongs to the Lingayat community. He has considerable influence as his wife is a ZP member at present.
Koliwad set for an easy win?
After the shock defeat in the 2018 assembly polls, when he was trounced by Independent candidate R. Shankar, former Speaker K.B. Koliwad seems pretty confident of wresting the seat as has received overwhelming support from Congress leader Siddaramaiah unlike in the previous election. Both of them have made it a point to showcase their unity setting aside their differences though Koliwad had some time ago held the former CM responsible for his defeat in 2018.
Disqualified legislator R Shankar is not in the fray as the BJP was not confident of his victory prospects against Koliwad. Shankar has lost much of his influence in the constituency as he stayed away since his disqualification prompting the BJP to field Arun Kumar Guthur who is facing a tough challenge in countering the veteran Congress leader. Sources said that BJP leaders have already sent a report to the party top brass saying that the party will suffer a defeat in Ranebennur.
Koliwad is even claiming the support of Shankar's loyalists after several members of KPJP (the party Shankar launched) of Ranebennur city municipal council joined the Congress. The Congress leader, who had lost by 4,000 votes last year, is confident of increasing his victory margin this time as he is not facing any rebels. He is banking on the development he achieved as a five-time legislator by ensuring drinking water supply in rural areas, a 24X7 water project to Ranebennur city apart from filling lakes.
Koliwad is contesting for the 11th time after serving as minister as well as chairman of various panels, including the Lake Committee.