Hubli, May 20 : Hubli-Dharwad Central, the new Assembly constituency in north Karnataka after the recent delimitation, has emerged as a battle royal for the Lingayats. Ahead of the third phase of polling scheduled for May 22, it is witnessing a triangular contest between the Congress, the BJP and the JD-S.
Jagadeesh Shettar, BJP's sitting MLA and a minister till the state came under Centre Rule last year, is pitted against the Congress' Shankaranna Manoli and the JD-S' Korvi MM (Rajanna), though the BSP's Premanath Chikkatumbal is also making his party's presence felt as the constituency has a sizeable 36,000 SC, ST votes.
With the scorching heat during the summers, dusty atmosphere, busy roads, and sweet peda, the busy town of Hubli refuses to change. Enter Hubli and one seldom recalls the communal tension that gripped the city in early 1990s after flamboyant rightist leader Uma Bharti hoisted the national flag at the Idgah maidan.
A case was filed against Uma, who was then the Madhya Pradesh chief minister, for violating the section 144 enforced there by the District Magistrate, following which she had to resign. The communal tension that followed claimed many lives.
BJP used this pretext to get rid of her, but needless to say that the BJP succeeded in widening its base by using this communal controversy.
But, in a stark contrast, this election is not being fought on communal lines. Development seems to be the buzzword that has caught the imagination of both, the candidates and the voters.
Congress' leader Shankaranna Manoli, a powerful Lingayat leader, is banking on votes from all the communities. An educationist who is the director of KLE (Karnataka Liberation Education) society, which runs hundreds of educational institutions across the state, blames the sitting BJP MLA Shettar for not doing anything to the constituency. Bad civic amenities, bad roads, water problem and other issues are his campaign mantra. "BJP's agenda has always been to spread communal tension here, be it the example of Uma Bhati's case or others. I am going to the voters with the adage that only the Congress can give a 'Sthir sarkar' (a stable government)," he said while talking to ANI.
Senior BJP state leader Jagadeesh Shettar is testing the waters for the fourth time. Talking to ANI he said his dream was to make Hubli Dharwad the northern capital of Karnataka. He thinks of making it an IT hub of the north Karnataka, and claims that all the communities were with him to get him elected. "During my past three tenures, I have done all round development of this area, and people have again and again reposed faith in me. I have risen above caste lines and am confident that voters across the caste lines will vote for me, considering the kind of development I did in the area."
This constituency has a total of 19 wards and around 181,000 voters, consisting of nearly 70,000 Lingayats, 30,000 Muslims, 36,000 SCs and STs, 14000 Christians, 12000 Jains and other communities.
Lingayats and Muslim votes are considered crucial for any one to win this battle of votes.
People here do not appear to be divided on caste or party lines, and say that they will vote for the one who would concentrate on development and overall progress. Kharolia, a Hubli resident, said that the city is witnessing a triangular contest, with the BJP and the Congress being the major players, the JD-S a regional party, and the BSP posing as a new alternative before the public. Forecasting a hung Assembly after the ongoing polls, he said, "no single party would be able to get majority, and the state might once again witness an era of coalition".
Manjunath, another localite, said people want to see all-round development, good roads, with no water or power problems, better education, and other facilities. He says it would be good for the state if Kumaraswamy once again gets the mandate to rule the state.
Ramantha Prasad, a BJP supporter, says that the BJP were cheated by the JD-S when the latter didn't extend support to it and Kumaraswamy let them down. "For once I feel that the BJP should be given a chance.......they were let down by Kumaraswamy's party the JD-S, and this time they should be given a chance to form the government on their own." By KG Vasuki