Karnataka bypolls: CM straining every nerve to win Hangal seat

In Hangal, which has seen a victory margin of around 6,000 favouring either the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) or the Congress in the past three elections, the ruling party, with its recent leadership change, is not taking any chances. That explains the constant presence of Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai in the bypoll-bound constituency for the past one week. Winning in Hangal, which lies in his home district, is seen as a prestige issue for the Chief Minister.

Long shadow

For over three decades, one individual had wielded considerable influence over the electorate in the constituency and won a total of six times, despite being part of four different parties. Contesting as an independent candidate, C.M. Udasi snatched the constituency from Manohar Tahsildar of the Congress in 1983. He tasted success five times contesting as a candidate from Janata Party, Janata Dal, Janata Dal (U), and the BJP. From 1978 onwards, Manohar Tahsildar (Congress) won the Hangal seat four times.

While Mr. Udasi’s death has necessitated the upcoming byelection, his rival Mr. Tahsildar has made way for a younger leader. Although there are 13 candidates in the fray, the main fight is between BJP candidate Shivaraj Sajjanar, a former MLA from Haveri, and Congress candidate Srinivas Mane, an MLC from Hubballi. As the Janata Dal (Secular) has fielded a minority candidate, Niyaz Sheikh, the Congress has deployed leaders such as U.T. Khader, Saleem Ahmed, and Rizwan Arshad to campaign. All the candidates of the three major parties are “outsiders”, and this being a bypoll a large number of “outsiders” are also seen in action in the run-up to polling.

Community calculations

The ruling party is relying heavily on leaders of different communities and subsects of the numerically strong Lingayat community to campaign. As in the other bypoll-bound constituency of Sindgi, the BJP has designed its poll campaign based on “caste data” and is focusing more on the Lingayat Panchamasali community, which has sizeable population. As per the BJP’s informally collated data, Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities, followed by Muslims, are big in number here. Efforts are on to woo castes such as Gangamatastha, Marathas, and Kurubas too.

The Congress, on the other hand, is hoping that former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s hectic campaign in the constituency along with KPCC president D.K. Shivakumar and other leaders from different communities will pull votes. The party is also banking on the anti-incumbency factor and the work done by its candidate, Mr. Mane, during the COVID-19 pandemic. A local BJP worker admitted that efforts were on to nullify this factor. “That is why local BJP leaders have been assigned back office jobs and new faces from outside have been deployed,” he said.

With only two days left for public campaigning, both parties are going all out. While there have been no official complaints, one local resident said the constituency has never seen such use of money power, but nobody wants to complain.

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Printable version | Dec 3, 2021 3:22:17 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/karnataka-bypolls-cm-straining-every-nerve-to-win-hangal-seat/article37170391.ece

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