Joshi is banking on the perceived "Modi wave", hoping that it will help him sail through neutralising the negative sentiments against him in a constituency that has remained a BJP bastion since 1996.
Muthalik took an unexpected jump into the fray after BJP admitted him into the party but within hours showed him the door as the move backfired, evoking criticism within the party and from its rivals.
The somersault by BJP has come as an embarrassment to Joshi, who was said to be one of the leaders responsible for Muthalik's botched up re-induction exercise. And, Muthalik has refused to take it lying down and vowed revenge. Muthalik's outfit was blamed for the attack on several girls in a Mangalore pub in 2009 under its moral policing.
51-year old Joshi is slugging it out to retain hold over traditional voters in the constituency, dominated by Lingayat community. Joshi faces Congress' Vinay Kulkarni, an MLA who showed initial reluctance to take a plunge but is now pulling all stops to break the BJP hold over the constituency.
Once a Congress fortress, the Dharwad constituency has turned into a BJP bastion after Ramjanmabhoomi movement and Hubli Idgah Maidan stir over hoisting the national flag. BJP wrested the seat from the Congress in 1996, and since then, won five elections in a row.