An electoral cocktail of border issue and rising right

April 10, 2019 01:16 am | Updated 01:16 am IST - Belagavi

Suresh Angadi.

Suresh Angadi.

When it is not in the news for squabbles between Kannada and Marathi groups or for activities of Hindutva organisations, the border district of Belagavi is hitting headlines for farmers’ protests for Mahadayi or delayed payment by sugar factories.

The Belagavi Lok Sabha seat that had been a Congress bastion for decades was wrested by the BJP in 2004. Some observers feel that the overarching presence of Lingayats and Maratha Kshatriyas was the reason behind BJP’s increasing influence. Though there is no field data on the population of the caste groups, a social data pamphlet distributed to workers by a national party claims the two groups form between 15 to 25% in each Assembly seat. People of these two communities have a significant socio-economic clout and have tended to drift towards the BJP over the years.

“At one time, there were five MES MLAs from Belagavi district. Now, there is none. That is mainly because of the emergence of the Hindutva forces. This turned the tide in a manner that the Marathi crowd became the Maratha crowd. That helped the rise of the right,” said a political observer.

The Belagavi constituency has eight Assembly segments – five with the BJP and three with the Congress. JD(S) too is a fairly significant player in the district as Janata Party or Janata Dal have had representatives from the district in the past. Janata Dal had an MP in 1996 and Janata Party had nine MLAs in the late 80s. Other important factors are the influence of sugar factories and cooperative societies across the constituency. They are mostly owned by political families who have embedded voters.

This time, Suresh Angadi, BJP MP who won three consecutive polls, is in the fray. Though there was an anti-incumbency factory working against him getting the ticket again, he was eventually picked by the party. He is banking quite heavily on the “Modi factor” working in his favour, say party insiders.

The Congress has Virupakshi Sadhunavar, a doctor with strong ties to the Karnataka Lingayat Education society and is a relatively new face. He is the candidate of the ruling combine of the Congress and the JD(S).

This constituency, interestingly, has 57 Independent candidates, the highest in Karnataka this time. Mr. Angadi has had to deal with several issues including the flood of these nominations propped up by the MES. The party has been demanding a merger of Belagavi with Maharashtra. It had vowed to field 101 candidates, but could only gather around half the number. Mr. Angadi alleged the Congress had sponsored MES nominees, a charge denied by the party.

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