Plight of sugarcane farmers, under utilisation of Suvarna Soudha, the border dispute ….

Just as it is in neighbouring Chikkodi Lok Sabha constituency, the people of Belgaum Lok Sabha constituency have been raising issues pertaining to sugarcane farmers time and again. This subject will be high on the agenda for this election as well.

The constituency has 10 sugar mills, just two short of Chikkodi’s. In fact, the issue might get a bit sticky as many of the politicians of the district, cutting across party lines, have stakes in the sugar mills that are yet to adhere to the Government Order on surgarcane prices.

There are chances that the construction of the Suvarna Soudha in Belgaum, which had become a sort of emotional issue related to the border row, might figure this time ‘for not being utilised for the benefit of the people of the region’. And the Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti (MES), which plans to field a candidate, might rake up the “border dispute” with Maharashtra.

In fact, it is the same constituency where the MES had fielded as many as 451 candidates (of a total of 456) in 1996 to reportedly making the election process cumbersome and raking up the border issue, in which however, it didn’t succeed.

Belgaum, which is considered an important district headquarters with good growth, has a mix of both urban and rural electorate. The urban voters are concerned about the lack of infrastructure, while the rural electorate is concerned about declining farming revenues and spells of drought and floods.

Spread over eight Assembly segments: Arabhavi, Bailhongal, Belgaum North, Belgaum South, Belgaum Rural, Gokak, Ramdurg and Saundatti Yallamma, the Belgaum LS constituency was once considered a Congress bastion. Then the Janata Parivar members broke the monopoly and subsequently the Bharatiya Janata Party took over.

The constituency sent Congress candidates to Parliament from 1957 to 1991 and Shanmukhappa Basappa Sidnal won from here four times in a row (1980 to 1991). It was in 1996, that the monopoly of the Congress ended, with Janata Dal’s Shivanand Koujalagi winning from the constituency, pushing Congress candidate Prabhakar Kore to the third position. Farmers’ leader Babagouda Patil, who had switched over to the BJP, won it in 1998 and went on to become a Union Minister. The Congress’s Amarsinh Patil regained the seat in 1999 by defeating Babagouda, only to lose it to BJP’s Suresh Angadi in 2004. Mr. Angadi retained the seat in 2009, again defeating Mr. Patil, and is now seeking re-election.

The Congress has chosen Belgaum District Congress Committee (Rural) president Laxmi R. Hebbalkar to take on Mr. Angadi. With district-in-charge Minister Satish Jarkiholi’s support, Ms. Laxmi will try to give a tough fight to the incumbent MP. Meanwhile, the former Union Minister Babagouda Patil, who had quit the BJP to join the JD(S), and then switched over to Mulayam Singh’s Samajwadi Party to become Karnataka State president, is back in the BJP fold now, and is campaigning for the party candidate. For the record, Belgaum LS constituency has four BJP MLAs, three Congress MLAs and one Independent MLA supported by the MES, and the JD(S) has given party ticket to Ashok Pujari.

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