Hubballi: The stage is set for a fierce battle in Gokak this bypoll with former BJP leader Ashok Pujari, joining the contest as a Janata Dal (Secular) candidate against brothers Lakhan and Ramesh Jarkiholi, who have been fielded by the Congress and the saffron party respectively.
The Jarkiholi brothers have reason to worry as Mr Pujari, who filed his nomination papers on Monday, could emerge as the dark horse if he mobilises enough support among his dominant Lingayat community in the constituency.
He could also get sympathy votes as his loyalists are upset with the BJP (which he quit recently) for not giving him the Gokak ticket although he had lost the last assembly election by a slender margin of around 14,000 votes.
Moreover, the Valmiki/Nayak community votebank, which is the second largest after the Lingayats, could be divided between the two Jarkiholi brothers, depriving both of the numbers they need.
Fanning their fears, former Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy, who visited Gokak on Monday to support his party candidate, Pujari, said the Janata Dal (Secular) expected to reap the rewards of the huge loan waiver it had given farmers of the constituencies going to the polls on December 5.
Hitting out at Mr Ramesh Jarkiholi for leading the team of rebel MLAs, who toppled his government in July, he alleged that he was leading a luxurious lifestyle using the money due to the farmers.
“Ramesh Jarkiholi is arrogant and the people of Gokak will teach him a fitting lesson this byelection. I have taken it as a challenge to ensure the victory of our party candidate in Gokak,” he asserted, adding that he would go on a week-long tour of the constituencies the Janata Dal (Secular) is contesting from to bolster its chances.
Meanwhile, both the Jarkiholi brothers arrived to file their nominations accompanied by thousands of their party workers on Monday. While Arabhavi MLA, Balachandra Jarkiholi accompanied his brother, Ramesh, another brother, Satish Jarkiholi, joined Lakhan and also filed his own nomination as a dummy candidate as the latter's affidavit had a technical problem which was later resolved in consultation with the polling officer....