Staff Correspondent

Umesh V. Katti went all out to ensure his brother’s victory

Congress leaders did not put up a picture of unity

Belgaum: The hopes of Congress to wrest its traditional stronghold, the Chikkodi Lok Sabha seat from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), transformed into a disappointment after its candidate Prakash B. Hukkeri lost to the latter in the recent general elections.

Mr. Hukkeri lost to BJP’s Ramesh V. Katti by a margin of 55,287 votes. Congress sources attributed Mr. Hukkeri’s defeat to squabbles.

Mr. Hukkeri, a former minister and MLA from Chikkodi-Sadalga in Chikkodi taluk, has identified himself a “political worker”. He played a key role in bringing development work to his home constituency and some landmark developments to the district, notably among them was the government medical college. His pro-active role during devastating floods into the Krishna flowing through his home taluk and other parts of Chikkodi Lok Sabha constituency had come for much appreciation, even from his political rivals; although not free from charges of corruption.

The Congress, which represents four of the eight Assembly segments in the constituency, thought that he would be sure-fire winner.

Mr. Ramesh Katti, younger brother of Horticulture Minister Umesh V. Katti, faced allegations of cheating sugarcane growers in sugar factories controlled by Katti brothers, particularly in Hiranyakeshi Sahakara Sakkare Karkhane.

Mr. Umesh, who quit the Janata Dal (S) and got re-elected on the BJP ticket in the byelection to Hukkeri, left no stone unturned and had gone to the extent of serving a veiled threat to his own party while staking claim to ‘ticket’ for his brother. The BJP yielded, although at the cost of old-time party loyalists.

Interestingly, a major similarity could be seen in the pre-poll electoral scenario in Chikkodi and Bidar Lok Sabha constituencies.

In Bidar, the former minister Gurupadappa Nagamarpalli quit Congress to contest from Bidar Lok Sabha seat on the BJP ticket and also ensured ticket to his son Suryakant Nagamarpalli to contest in the bye-election from Bidar Assembly seat, which fell vacant after his father resigned to join the BJP.

But the voters of Bidar returned the former Chief Minister N. Dharam Singh of the Congress.

In Chikkodi, although a similar feeling existed, the Katti brothers managed to register success, thanks to a divided Congress.

Both the leaders and workers agree that Congress legislators Kakasaheb Patil from Nippani, Shyam B. Ghatage from Kudachi and the former minister and MLC Veerkumar Patil did not work to the extent it was required for the success of Mr. Hukkeri.

Sources in Congress told The Hindu that many leaders in district Congress did not wish to see Mr. Hukkeri grow.