Kalaburagi Lok Sabha constituency | Mallikarjun Kharge on a mission to reclaim lost territory, this time for his son-in-law

The Congress is projecting itself as the champion of the region’s development by showing a bunch of its past achievements in the region

Updated - April 28, 2024 04:18 pm IST

Published - April 26, 2024 07:31 pm IST - Kalaburagi

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge being garlanded by supporters during a public meeting ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge being garlanded by supporters during a public meeting ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. | Photo Credit: File photo

After winning 11 general elections in a row (nine Assembly elections and two Lok Sabha elections), Congress veteran M. Mallikarjun Kharge suffered a massive defeat in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. He was beaten on his home turf by his loyal follower-turned-rival Umesh Jadhav, BJP candidate, by a margin of 95,452 votes. It was his first electoral defeat in 47 years of political journey since 1972.

Five years down the line, Mr. Kharge, the man seen as having played a key role in special status to the region under Article 371(J) of the Constitution, is this time campaigning for his son-in-law Radhakrishna Doddamani. It is a high-stakes battle for him as the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha and the president of the All India Congress Committee. Mr. Doddamani is pitted against Mr. Jadhav who is recontesting from this reserved segment.

Also read: Phase 2 Lok Sabha elections 2024 LIVE 

Having six MLAs in the eight Assembly segments in Kalaburagi Lok Sabha constituency, the Congress is relatively in a better condition. While the Congress is riding on the development initiatives of Mr. Kharge and the government’s guarantee schemes locally, the BJP is, as in 2019, heavily banking on the “Modi wave” and “Modi ki guarantee”, besides the aggressive Hindutva plank.

What they are banking on

The Congress is projecting itself as the champion of the region’s development by showing a bunch of its past achievements in the region such as the ESIC Hospital in Kalaburagi, Central University of Karnataka, Rail Coach Factory, airport in Kalaburagi, announcement of the new Railway Division and National Investment and Manufacturing Zone for Kalaburagi, branch of Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences in Kalaburagi, and more, apart from Article 371(J) which has brought in resources for regional development and reservations in education and employment.

The rejection of special status to Kalyana Karnataka under Article 371(J) by the then Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani during the BJP-led NDA regime in 1999 continues to haunt the BJP. It was conceded in 2012 under UPA, which is regarded as a feather in the cap of Mr. Kharge.

The BJP is going strong on the Hindutva card, branding its adversary as “pro-Muslim” and also talking of a couple of new trains, including a Vande Bharat Express from Kalaburagi, as its achievements. Mr. Jadhav is hoping to ride on the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Caste combination

In terms of castes, Kolis (Kabbaligas), one of the major communities that can influence the poll result in the Kalaburagi constituency, is upset with the BJP. The party had, on the promise of including the community in the Scheduled Tribes (ST) list, grabbed Baburao Chinchanasur, a prominent Koli/Kabbaliga leader, from the Congress fold. Mr. Chinchansur played a crucial role in channelising his community votes in favour of the BJP and defeating Mr. Kharge in the last election. After the BJP failed to fulfil its promise, Mr. Chinchansur is now back in the Congress.

Former Minister Malikayya Guttedar, who had also quit the Congress and joined the BJP to play a role in defeating Mr. Kharge, is also back in the Congress now. His homecoming could help get a significant lead for the Congress in the Afzalpur Assembly segment – where Mr. Jadhav had grabbed over 35,000 more votes than Mr. Kharge in the last elections.

However, Lambani voters are expected to back their community leader Mr. Jadhav and SC (Right) are likely to support their leader Mr. Doddamani. Relatively, the Lambanis are a smaller community with around one lakh electors compared to the latter, which has around 2.5 lakh electors. With prominent Lambani leaders like Revu Naik Belamagi and Subhash Rathod in its fold, the Congress is hoping to grab a sizable chunk of Lambani votes too. Both the BJP and the Congress share SC (Left) votes, which are around 1.5 lakh.

Lingayats are the largest community with around five lakh voters and the BJP is heavily banking on it. Kurubas is the second largest community with around three lakh voters and the Congress is likely to be the main claimant because of Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. Muslims and Koli/Kabbaligas are the third largest communities with around 2.5 lakh voters each and the Congress is hoping to get a lion’s share here.

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