Discontent in Congress may wreck his plan to retain seat

: A struggle for supremacy is on in the Afzalpur constituency, which was once known for gang wars and ‘supari’ killings, in Gulbarga district.

Five-time MLA Malikayya Guttedar is slugging it out with M.Y. Patil, of the KJP , and Janata Dal (Secular) candidate Vittal Heroor in the Assembly elections.

Gang wars in the district, which spilled over to neighbouring Bijapur district and Solapur in Maharashtra, attracted the attention of the Kannada film world and the film “Bheema Theeradalli…”, starring Vijay, was produced based on the gang wars in Afzalpur and its surrounding areas. In the Lingayat dominated constituency, it is the Kuruba and Kabbaliga votes along with the Dalit and Muslim ones that decide the fate of candidates.

Mr. Guttedar, who won as Congress candidate in 1985, 1989 and 2008 from the constituency, was elected to the Assembly in 1994 as KCP candidate and in 1999 he won on the Janata Dal (Secular) ticket. Mr. Guttedar was a Minister in the J.H. Patel government.

Though he succeeded in getting the Congress rebel candidate Maqbool Patel to withdraw from the fray, discontentment among a section of the Congress leaders and workers in the constituency is evident and this may wreck Mr. Guttedar’s plan to retain the seat.

As many as 40 per cent of voters are Lingayats, followed by the backward class communities Kurubas and Kabbaligas who, combined together, account for 30 per cent, followed by Dalits and Muslims, who form a significant chunk.

In the 2008 elections, Mr. Guttedar defeated Mr. Patil, contesting on the BJP ticket, by a margin of 7,958 votes, but the emergence of the KJP as a strong force and its growing influence among the Lingayats, should be a matter of concern for the Congress.

With a sizeable section of the backward class votes — particularly that of the Kabbaligas — likely to go in favour of the JD(S) candidate Vittal Heroor, who is recognised as a Kabbaliga leader, and Kuruba voters likely to favour the BJP candidate Dilip Patil, an emerging Kuruba leader in the party, the only hope for Mr. Guttedar hinges on the Dalit and Muslim votes.

Mr. Heroor is making a determined bid to upset the calculations of both the Congress and the KJP. JD(S) leaders are hoping to garner a sizeable number of the Muslim and Dalit votes.

  • The KJP’s growing influence among the Lingayats should be a matter of concern for the Congress

  • A sizeable chunk of the backward class vote is likely to go to JD(S) candidate Vittal Heroor