The land of the Sharanas and Sufis, Gulbarga is known for communal amity

Gulbarga, which is known for its extreme weather conditions with temperatures soaring to 46 degree Celsius during summer and plummeting to less than 8 degree Celsius during winter, is bracing itself to witness an interesting battle among the Congress, the BJP and the debutant Aam Aadmi Party in the Lok Sabha elections.

The land of the Sharanas and Sufi saints who acted as a bond between Hindus and Muslims in the area, which was once part of the Hyderabad Province ruled by the Nizam, Gulbarga is also known for communal amity. After the 1992 riots, the constituency has not witnessed a single communal riot.

While the Congress has retained Railway Minister M. Mallikarjun Kharge, the BJP has chosen the former Minister Revu Naik Belamgi from the Banjara community. The AAP has chosen another former Minister B.T. Lalitha Naik, also from the Banjara community. The Janata Dal (S), which has a base in the constituency, has not announced its candidate yet.

As far as issues facing the region are concerned, the Congress-led government at the Centre seems to have won many friends after fulfilling two long-pending demands — bringing in an amendment to Article 371 of the Constitution giving special status to Hyderabad Karnataka region and establishing a Railway divisional headquarters in Gulbarga. The constituency, situated in the north-eastern part of the State having borders with Maharashtra on the one side and Andhra Pradesh on the other, has always been a citadel of the Congress, breached only twice before — once in 1996 when Qamarul Islam, as a Janata Dal candidate, won the seat defeating Basavaraj Patil Sedam of the BJP with the Congress pushed to the third spot, and again in 1998, when the seat was claimed by Mr. Sedam on a BJP ticket, defeating Mr. Islam pushing the Congress to the third spot again.

However, in the subsequent elections, the Congress bounced back to claim lost glory in the constituency.

Gulbarga was always considered a safe bet for the Congress and the then Prime Minister Late Indira Gandhi once chose the constituency to field her lieutenant late C.M. Stephen in a byelection after he lost his Delhi seat to Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Mr. Stephen won handsomely by a margin of over 80,000 votes.

Even now, Gulbarga is one seat that can be considered safe by the beleaguered Congress, as its candidate, Mr. Kharge, has left the Opposition parties benumbed with his performance as a first-time MP from the constituency. Even the worst enemies of Mr. Kharge praise him in private for his performance as Labour Minister first and Railways Minister later. The decision to get an ESIC super-speciality hospital and a medical education complex sanctioned for Gulbarga and the Railway divisional headquarters would go a long way in helping Mr. Kharge to cement his growing base in the constituency. In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, Mr. Kharge defeated Mr. Belamgi by a margin of more than 13,400 votes.

However, one thing that should be worrying the Congress this time is the merger of the KJP with the BJP and B. Sriramulu joining the BJP. The Congress won seven of the eight Assembly seats in 2013 leaving the BJP with one segment. But the Congress’ 3,76,754 votes from all eight Assembly seats in the Lok Sabha constituency fell short of the combined votes of the BJP (2,18,668), the KJP (1,71,880) and the BSR Congress (8,373) adding up to 3,98,921 votes.

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