Railway Minister M. Mallikarjun Kharge will once again cross swords with the former Minister Revu Naik Belamagi in the Gulbarga Lok Sabha (Reserved) constituency in the general elections.

For Mr. Kharge, this will be the eleventh election in his political life and in he has emerged victorious in all the previous elections.

The Congress has finalised his renomination and a formal announcement is awaited.

From the block level to the district unit of the party, only Mr. Kharge’s name was proposed as a candidate to the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee.

Mr. Belamagi’s candidature is also almost certain as only his name was in the list of probable candidates recommended by the core committee of the BJP to the central leadership.

Mr. Belamagi, a four-time MLA, who was a Minister in the previous BJP government, tasted his first defeat when he lost to Mr. Kharge here in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.

Mr. Kharge’s performance as the Union Labour Minister and later as the Railway Minister should stand in good stead for him. The new projects he brought to the Gulbarga region included the Medical Education complex and ESIC super speciality hospital.

Apart from the popularity of Mr. Kharge, the fact that the Congress won seven out of the eight constituencies in the Gulbarga Lok Sabha constituency in the 2013 Assembly elections has bolstered the chances of the veteran Congress leader, despite the groundswell of support for the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.

However, the merger of the Karnataka Janata Paksha and the home-coming of the former Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa should do a world of good for the BJP, which had lost its base in the Hyderabad Karnataka region after the departure of Mr. Yeddyurappa ahead the 2013 Assembly elections. The KJP played a major role in the decimation of the BJP in the region. The KJP’s vote share was 14.58 per cent, the BJP’s 21.71 per cent, and the Congress’ 37.40 per cent.

However, how far the merger of the KJP and the Modi factor would turn the tide in favour of the BJP remains to be seen. The fight in the Gulbarga Lok Sabha seat will be a direct one between the Congress and the BJP and the other political parties, including the Janata Dal (Secular), do not have a major presence in the constituency, which had been a Congress citadel for years.

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