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Will Qamar-ul-Islam perform a hat trick?

By T.V. Sivanandan

GULBARGA, MARCH 22. The Gulbarga City Assembly constituency that has largely chosen Muslim candidates in recent years is also one where the Bharatiya Janata Party has succeeded in communalising the contest. Only on three occasions have Hindu candidates won, and in the other eight elections, including the byelection in 1996, it was the Muslim candidates who emerged victorious.

The Hindu candidates who won included Gangadhar Namoshi of the Communist Party of India in 1962 and S.K. Kanta who won the elections in 1983 and 1985 on the Janata Party ticket.

Although the BJP was not a force in the constituency till 1994 elections, it had some sort of a presence there. In the 1972 elections, the Jan Sangh candidate, Anant Sharma, finished second securing more than 11,600 votes. However, the party became strong in the 1994 elections when Shashil G. Namoshi finished second polling more than 40,000 votes pushing Mr. Kanta to the third spot. Since then, it has been a battle between the BJP candidates and the Minister for Labour, Qamar-ul-Islam, who has won elections as a Muslim League, Indian National League, and Congress candidate at various times.

Mr. Islam also won the Gulbarga Lok Sabha seat on a Janata Dal ticket in the 1996 elections. Mr. Islam, who made a bow into electoral politics as a Muslim League candidate by defeating heavyweights such as the former Minister, Mohammed Ali, Iqbal Ahmed Saradgi who contested on the Congress ticket, and Ustad Sadat Hussain (Janata Party) in the 1978 elections, has won the seat in the 1989, 1994, and 1999 elections after losing to Mr. Kanta in 1983 and 1985 elections. He won the 1989 election on a Muslim League ticket, in the 1994 elections on the Indian National League ticket, and in the 1999 elections as a Congress candidate. This time also, it is likely to be a fight between Mr. Islam, who is likely to get the Congress ticket, and the BJP candidate.

Chandrashekhar Patil Ravoor, who lost the 1999 elections, is likely to be renominated as BJP candidate. Mr. Islam appears to have won over Hindu votes, particularly those of the Scheduled Castes and backward classes, by directing development activities in areas dominated by them.

Apart from the assured chunk of Muslim votes, Mr. Islam can also bank on the votes of Scheduled Castes and backward classes this time.

Roughly, Muslims constitute 32 per cent of the total population in the constituency followed by Lingayats (24 per cent), and Scheduled Castes (19 per cent). The infighting in the BJP is likely to affect its prospects at the hustings. The Janata Dal, which was a force to reckon with till the emergence of the BJP has lost ground after the split. Although the Janata Dal (S) has emerged stronger now, the party is yet to decide on its candidate for the elections.

The total electorate in the constituency is 2,64,753 (1,37,153 men and 1,27,600 women). The polling stations have been reduced from 335 in the last elections to 272 now after the rationalisation of polling stations by the Election Commission.

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