The Bagalkot district, which is home to the historic temples of Badami, Aihole and Pattadakal, also boasts of a unique political history for dramatically changing the careers of three former Chief Ministers of the State.
Bagalkot, which was separated from Bijapur district in 1997, has witnessed three political giants testing their fortunes.
For Ramakrishna Hegde, the district perhaps offered the most surprising election result of his political career. In 1991 Lok Sabha elections, Mr. Hegde, a native of Karwar district, had decided to contest election on ticket of the erstwhile Janata Dal from Bagalkot, which was then called Bijapur South LS constituency.
Having gained tremendous popularity for being instrumental in getting a new township developed in Bagalkot on the lines of Chandigarh for rehabilitating the farmers who lost their land for the construction of the Almatti dam, Mr. Hegde was confident of winning the polls.
In such a situation, the former Chief Minister late S. Bangarappa, a onetime bête noir of Mr. Hegde, decided to field Siddu Nyamagouda, a farmers’ leader of Jamkhandi taluk against Mr. Hegde. A complete novice to politics, Mr. Nyamagouda was pitted against a ‘political giant’.
It was then that the shocking news came about the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in Tamil Nadu. The shock and sympathy wave generated in the aftermath changed the political arithmetic of Mr. Hegde, and he lost the election to a young political novice.
Another former Chief Minister Veerendra Patil’s political career was also shaped in Bagalkot district, when he fought an election on the erstwhile Indira Congress ticket after losing the Lok Sabha election from Chikmagalur against Indira Gandhi in 1978.
A native of Gulbarga district, Mr. Patil rejoined the Congress and contested from Bagalkot in 1980. He not only won the election against Janata Dal candidate T.M. Hundekar, but also went on to become Petroleum Minister in the Indira Gandhi government.
One more former Chief Minister who tested his luck and recorded victory was late S. Nijalingappa. A native of Chitradurga, Mr. Nijalingappa, after losing Assembly polls form Hosadurga taluk, contested from Bagalkot Assembly segment in 1962.
Making ‘caste calculations’, he got the Congress MLA, B.T. Muranal, to resign to pave the way for a byelection. Mr. Nijalingappa won as his calculation proved right. He later became Chief Minister.
It would be interesting to see whose political fortunes will be on the up in Bagalkot this time.