KARNATAKA

It is a three-cornered contest in Gulbarga

T.V. Sivanandan

JD(S) a weak force, Congress trying to regain lost ground, BJP wants to strengthen base



Congress chooses caniddates based on

caste factor, seniority

BJP trying to garner the support of Lingayats



GULBARGA: The die is cast for the May 22 elections in the 13 Assembly constituencies in Gulbarga district, and it is a fight to finish for the major contenders — the Congress, Bharaitya Janata Party (BJP) and the Janata Dal (Secular).

While the Congress is trying to regain lost ground, the BJP is striving to retain its growing clout and strengthen its base in the district.

The Janata Dal (S), which had emerged as a force to reckon with in the 2004 elections, has become weak after almost all the senior leaders deserted the party.

A negative swing of 12.78 percentage points in the 2004 elections saw the Congress being reduced to a minor force. It won just three of the 13 seats in Gulbarga district that was once a Congress fortress. In 1999, the party had won ten of the 13 seats in the district, polling 48.39 per cent of the votes. But its vote share came down to 35.61 per cent in 2004.

The Congress stakes in the elections are very high. A good showing in the district would boost the chances of Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee president M. Mallikarjun Kharge becoming the Chief Minister in the event of the party gaining simple majority.

Two senior party leaders Mr. Kharge and the former Chief Minister N. Dharam Singh, who hail from the district, are contesting elections from Chitapur (reserved) and Jewargi segments respectively. Mr. Singh is making a bid to get into the Assembly for a record ninth time from the same constituency. Mr. Kharge too is making a bid to get into the Assembly for the ninth time.

But he was forced to change his constituency this time from his traditional Gurmitkal which had returned him eight times, and opt for Chitapur. .

Nominations

The Congress has based its nominations on time-tested criteria — seniority and caste factor.

It has accommodated the former legislator B.R. Patil, a supporter of the former Deputy Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, in Aland. It has also given ticket to the former Minister Sharanabasappa Dharshanapur, a supporter of the former Deputy Chief Minister M.P. Prakash, in Shahapur. The former Ministers A.B. Maalakaraddy and Qamarul Islam have been retained in Yadgir and Gulbarga North Assembly segments.

Reserved constituency

The former Minister Baburao Chavan has been given ticket in Chincholi which has been made a reserved constituency after delimitation.

Vaijnath Patil, a former Minister, failed to get a Congress ticket from Gulbarga South. His traditional constituency of Chincholi is a reserved seat now.

The BJP, which has made steady growth in the vote share in the district from a mere 1.29 per cent in 1989 to 21.03 per cent in 2004, is making all efforts to garner the support of Lingayats.

It has given eight seats to Lingayat candidates and accommodated one Backward Class candidate in Gurmitkal. The remaining four seats come under the reserved category.

The BJP appears to be banking more on party hoppers and has given as many as five seats to new entrants including M.Y. Patil (Afsalpur), Veerabasantreddy Mudnal (Yadgir), Vittal Heroor (Gurmitkal), Narasimha Naik (Surpur) and B.G. Patil (Gulbarga North).

It has retained the former Minister Revu Naik Belamgi in Gulbarga Rural. Sunil Valyapur, a former MLA, has been shifted to Chincholi after his Shahabad constituency was scrapped after delimitation. Chandrasekhar Patil Ravoor has been retained in Gulbarga South.

A positive swing of 16.17 percentage points in favour of the Janata Dal (S) in 2004 helped it win five of the 13 seats.

But the situation has changed now. It will be an uphill task for the party to retain its hold in the district.

Prominent among the party candidates are the former Ministers S.K. Kanta (Gulbarga South) and C. Gurunath (Gulbarga Rural, and Subash Guttedar (Aland).

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