When Murgesh Nirani won the last Assembly elections by a margin of little over 3,000 votes from Bilagi, many called it a warning bell for his political future.
After five years, the Industries Minister and industrialist is back at Bilagi hoping for a third victory from the same constituency. However, this time, the road to victory has numerous hurdles, forcing him to spend every ounce of his energy to retain the power he has enjoyed for a decade.
While some of the stumbling blocks are posed by his political rivals, the bigger ones are believed to be self-created, thanks to his flip-flop in the last few months. Mr. Nirani, once a staunch supporter of the former Chief Minister and Karnataka Janata Paksha (KJP) president B.S. Yeddyurappa, sat on the fence for long and finally decided to remain with the Bharatiya Janata Party rather than join his political mentor.
He then kept everyone guessing on which constituency he would contest from. He wanted to change base to Jamkhandi, apparently for fear of losing from his home turf.
Mr. Nirani even took a whirlwind tour of Jamkhandi where he visited about 30 villages in 10 days to test the political waters. Speculation was rife that he would join the KJP and contest from Jamkhandi.
But, after his other colleagues and strong supporters of Mr. Yeddyurappa, such as Umesh V. Katti and Basavaraj Bommai refused to join the KJP, Mr. Nirani also stayed with the BJP. When the party insisted he contest from Bilagi rejecting his demand for change of base, he relented as he was left with no option.
Mr. Nirani, who is also owner of Nirani Sugar factory, is now back at Bilagi even as his supporters have openly expressed their unhappiness over his fickle manner. The sugarcane farmers of Bilagi too are unhappy with Mr. Nirani. They say he was not only reluctant to get them a fair minimum support price, but even had it slashed as he was part of the sugar factory owners’ lobby himself.
The Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) in Bilagi are hoping to cash in on this. J.T. Patil, a Congress candidate who lost to Mr. Nirani in 2004 polls, is back as his opponent hoping to reap the anti-incumbency mood.