Congress and BJP candidates engaged in a straight fight for the second time
The Haveri Lok Sabha constituency is facing a repeat of the previous election with the same candidates of the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) engaged in a straight fight for the second time.
Haveri had drawn the attention of the State and also the nation on various occasions in the last five years. First, it was the death of two farmers in police firing during a violent protest over fertilizer a few days after the B.S. Yeddyurappa-led BJP government came to power. Then, there were agitations by farmers for not getting Bt cotton seeds. These cotton farmers suffered crop loss and staged protests, resulting in the State government banning Bt cotton seeds supplied by Mahyco.
It was in Haveri that the former Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa formally took over the reins of the Karnataka Janata Paksha, a move that damaged the BJP’s prospects in the region in the 2013 Assembly elections. The incumbent BJP MP, Shivakumar Udasi, had then canvassed for his father and the former Minister C.M. Udasi who had contested on KJP ticket. Mr. Yeddyurappa and several of his supporters have now returned to the BJP.
The Haveri Lok Sabha constituency has eight Assembly segments. The strength of the Congress now matches that of the BJP’s during the 2009 elections.
Mr. Shivakumar Udasi got elected in 2009 with a margin of 87,920 votes thanks to the support of seven BJP MLAs. Now, the Congress represents seven of the eight Assembly segments.
While Congress candidate Saleem Ahmed appears to be in a stronger position, Mr. Shivakumar Udasi, who is heavily banking on ‘Modi wave’ is troubled by anti-incumbency.
Mr. Shivakumar Udasi is touring the constituency extensively, elaborating on his performance as an MP, with focus on his achievements of having attended the highest number of Lok Sabha sessions and raising over 300 questions.
The electorate, however, seems to be unhappy over his “unavailability” in the constituency mainly because of his frequent business trips to Bangalore, Delhi and Singapore. The Congress is highlighting this issue and questioning Mr. Shivakumar Udasi’s contributions to the development of the constituency in the last five years. According to BJP party workers, Mr. Shivakumar Udasi’s “lack of touch with voters” may affect his prospects.
To counter the Congress attack, the BJP is playing the “outsider card” against Mr. Ahmed. In his defence, Mr. Ahmed has been maintaining that he has been in close contact with people of Haveri from the last 18 years. He is highlighting that as a former MLC he spent local area development funds for Haveri and till recently as director-general of the Nehru Yuva Kendra he organised several national events here. Lingayats form a major chunk of the electorate here. Mr. Shivakumar Udasi is banking on Lingayat votes while Mr. Ahmed is aiming to consolidate Muslim, Kuruba and Dalit votes.
The presence of Janata Dal (Secular) leader Ravi Menasinakai — a Lingayat — in the fray might affect Mr. Shivakumar Udasi’s prospects.
Having unsuccessfully lobbied for party ticket for his cousin (D.R. Patil), Minister for Rural Development and Panchayat Raj H.K. Patil is now extensively campaigning for Mr. Ahmed, and this might tilt the equations in favour of the Congress in Gadag district.
However, it is likely that the return B. Sriramulu to the BJP might help Mr. Shivakumar Udasi’s prospects as the former has some following in Gadag district.