Hubballi: Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa’s strategy to play the Veerashaiva-Lingayat card during electioneering helped the ruling party pull off victories in all constituencies in north Karnataka in Assembly bypolls held earlier this month.
Sources in the state unit of BJP said the Chief Minister's move to announce during his campaign tour of northern districts that people belonging to his community want him to continue in the post helped reap rich dividends. During rallies, he instructed party workers to ensure that people belonging to his community do not vote for candidates fielded by Congress and JD (S). He also ensured that all Lingayat leaders, including Union minister of state Suresh Angadi and Prabhakar Kore, worked as a team to help BJP candidates garners votes of all Lingayats in Belagavi and other districts.
Sources said this strategy helped stymie efforts by BJP rebel and Janata Dal (Secular) candidate Ashok Pujari to secure votes of Lingayats and dent the prospects of former minister Ramesh Jarkiholi in Gokak. In fact, Mr Ashok Pujari finished third, securing 27, 948 votes, while Mr Ramesh Jarkiholi recorded 87, 450 votes, and his brother and Congress candidate, Lakhan Jarkiholi, 58, 444 votes.
To add to the woes of Congress candidates in north Karnataka, leader of Opposition in the Assembly, Siddaramaiah, held out a threat of toppling the government of Mr Yediyurappa, which helped all Lingayat voters to unite and support BJP candidates.
“The by-poll in Gokak was contested on caste and religion. We could not focus on local issues in Gokak. Mr Siddaramaiah's threat to topple Mr Yediyurappa's government had an adverse impact on our candidate,” says Congress leader Satish Jarkiholi.
Meanwhile, local Congress leaders said party candidates could not do well in north Karnataka as top leaders, including M. Mallikarjun Kharge, G. Parameshwar and D.K. Shivakumar, stayed away from the campaign in the run up to the crucial bypolls. With his victory, Mr Ramesh Jarkiholi has not only proved his clout in Belagavi district but also silenced his friend-turned-foe Laxmi Hebbalkar, who used to take potshots at him ever since a rift erupted between them, post elections to PLD bank.