Hubballi: With just a day to go for the May 19 bypolls, both the Congress and BJP upped their campaign on Friday to woo the voters of Kundagol, braving the hot sun and a 40-degree Celsius temperature. Both parties are banking heavily on the Lingayats and Kurubas, who form a major chunk of the people here and have convened several meetings of their community leaders to get them on their side. Of the 1.89 lakh voters of Kundagol , Lingayats account for 75,000, followed by Kurubas, Muslims and the scheduled castes and tribes. The Congress seems confident of Kuruba backing as its candidate, Kusumavati Shivalli, is from the community, and former Chief Minister, Siddaramaiah, a Kuruba himself, has campaigned vigorously for her.
But Lingayat support could be more dicey for the party as former minister, Vinay Kulkarni is having a hard time convincing the community to vote for Ms Kusumavati, a Kuruba, and ignore the BJP's Lingayat candidate, S I Chikkanagoudar. He is, however , not giving up and is trying to impress the Lingayats by referring to 15th century social reformer, Basavanna's principles of social justice and the efforts made by Mr Siddaramaiah to adopt them during his tenure as Chief Minister in the state.
Says Zilla Panchayat member and Lingayat leader, Umesh Hebasur, “We are confident of support from most of the Kurubas and are also hoping to corner at least 20 to 25 per cent of the Lingayat votes based on the pro-poor schemes of the Siddaramaiah government. The fact that the Congress fielded five Lingayats these Lok Sabha elections and has made several leaders of the community ministers in the past could also work in our favour.”
The other advantage the party has is the support of former Kundagol MLA, M S Akki, of the JD(S), who is a Lingayat. Drawing on its strength from the support of Muslims and other backward castes too, the party claims it is sitting pretty this bypoll.
But the BJPis also trying to woo the Lingayats by recalling the Siddaramaiah government's attempts to “divide” the community on the issue of a minority tag for it. Moreover, it has the advantage of its candidate, Chikkanagoudar, being from the community. The party's state chief, and Lingayat strongman, B S Yeddyurappa, has held several meeting with the community 's leaders to persuade them to vote for it. And as for the Kurubas, BJP senior leader, K S Eshwarappa, who belongs to the community, has toured the constituency widely to draw their attention to the contributions of the last BJP government in the state to the development of the Kaginele Kanaka Guru Petha, a prominent religious centre of the community.
Although the sympathy factor could work in Ms Kusumavathi's favour as it was the death of her husband, minister C S Shivalli, that caused the bypoll, the BJP is also trying to muster sympathy for its candidate, by pointing out that he had lost the last assembly poll from Kundagol by a mere 634 votes...