Belagavi Lok Sabha constituency: Caste and sub-caste factors, besides writ of ‘sahukars’, will determine results here

Updated - May 06, 2024 12:18 pm IST

Published - April 25, 2024 10:06 pm IST - Belagavi

BJP nominee Jagadish Shettar takes out a procession before filing his nomination papers in Belagavi. file photo

BJP nominee Jagadish Shettar takes out a procession before filing his nomination papers in Belagavi. file photo | Photo Credit: Badiger PK

Kanasageri is a small village with an enchanting name that translates to “lane of dreams.” It lies within a few kilometres of the Kadabagatti hills in Gokak in Belagavi district that are famous for the sandalwood forest raised by the Forest Department. It is a new moon night and dark all around as there is no power supply. Most people are sleeping in their courtyards to beat the heat.

“We are used to this,” says Beerappa Tavag, an octogenarian sheep rearer. Children walk to Urubinahatti village for a school, while the young climb up the hill to go to colleges in Gokak.

The people here look up to “sahukars” (as the Jarkiholi brothers of Gokak are referred to) to choose their candidate. Before every election, he and some friends including his relative Holeyappa, a former gram panchayat member, go to Gokak and meet the Jarkiholis who suggest the candidate they should support. “This is how we have voted for the Congress at times and the BJP at the other... For us, it is not the party that is important, it is the leader,” said Basappa Banni, a who runs a roadside tea shop. Of the brothers, while Ramesh Jarkiholi and Balachandra Jarkiholi are with the BJP, Satish Jarkiholi is a Minister in the Congress government.

The Belagavi Lok Sabha seat has attracted a lot of attention after Jagadish Shettar, former Chief Minister, was chosen as the BJP candidate, replacing Mangala Angadi, MP and widow of former Union Minister Suresh Angadi. Some local leaders including Prabhakar Kore and Abhay Patil opposed the candidature, but the party high command silenced them saying the ticket had gone to the Angadi family. Mr. Shettar’s son is married to Ms. Angadi’s daughter. Party workers say the dissent has not completely subsided and senior leaders are still not actively involved in Mr. Shettar’s campaign.

Mrinal Hebbalkar with Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and his mother and State minister Lakshmi Hebbalkar.

Mrinal Hebbalkar with Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and his mother and State minister Lakshmi Hebbalkar. | Photo Credit: HANDOUT E MAIL

Caste calculations

Mr. Shettar, a Lingayat Banajiga, is pitted against Mrinal Hebbalkar of the Congress, whose mother and Minister Laxmi Hebbalkar is a Lingayat Panchamasali leader with considerable clout. While Banajigas are considered wealthy traders with ownership of lands, farm produce trading houses, cooperative societies and education institutions, Panchamasalis are numerically strong. Mr. Shettar recently organised a rally with Basanagouda Patil Yatnal, BJP MLA and Panchamasali leader, in Gokak, hoping to neutralise the effect of sub-caste politics.

BJP insiders say the long standing ill-will between Ramesh Jarkiholi and Ms. Hebbalkar may improve Mr. Shettar’s chances. Gokak and Arabavi, the two seats held by Ramesh Jarkiholi and his brother Balachandra Jarkiholi, are part of the Belagavi Lok Sabha seat. In the 2021 bypolls, Ms. Angadi got over 84,000 votes from Gokak, the highest among all the Assembly seats. If repeated, such a franchise could tilt the scales in favour of the BJP, they say.

The BJP-JD(S) alliance seems to be working well in constituencies like Bailhongal. Political rivals - former MLAs Jagadish Metgud and Vishwanath Patil and JD(S) leader Shankar Madalagi - have apparently sunk their differences and are seen campaigning together. It was this rivalry that helped Congress MLA Mahantesh Koujalagi win twice in the past. But this time, he may not be able to get more votes than the traditional Congress vote share here, said a local leader.

Maratha factor

The BJP faces a challenge in Mahadev Patil, veteran Maratha leader fielded by the Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti. “In the 2021 bypoll, MES candidate Shubham Shelke took over 1.24 lakh votes, that would have gone to the BJP. In a close fight, the BJP will suffer if the MES repeats this performance,” said a Maratha leader. However, Ms. Hebbalkar, who represents the Maratha-dense Belagavi Rural constituency will take at least a portion of the Maratha vote, he points out.

The Congress is banking on the fact that five of the eight Assembly seats in the Parliament constituency are held by Congress MLAs.

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