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K’taka polls: Will scientist-turned-AAP leader be able to defeat Jagadish Shettar in his home turf?

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    Bengaluru, April 4: In this election season, Karnataka's Hubli-Dharwad Central constituency will witness a classic David versus Goliath battle. If on the one hand, it is former chief minister and veteran Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Jagadish Shettar, on the other hand is debutant politician from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Santosh Nargund. While the AAP in March has announced that 41-year-old Nargund, an aerospace specialist and seasoned civic activist, will contest the Karnataka Assembly elections from the prestigious Hubli-Dharwad Central constituency, the BJP is yet to announce its first list of candidates for the upcoming polls.

    Nonetheless, it is obvious that it will be Shettar who will fight the elections from the constituency which has sent him to the state Assembly as its representative for a record five-time. If the 62-year-old BJP leader once again contest elections from the Hubli-Dharwad Central constituency and win it too, then he will definitely create a new record.

    Santosh Nargund against incumbent Jagadish Shettar

    Recently, the Election Commission (EC) announced the polling and counting dates for Karnataka. While the polling for the 224-member Legislative Assembly will take place on May 12, the counting of votes will be held on May 15 in the southern state.

    When OneIndia met Nargund recently in Bengaluru, the self-confessed political novice who is busy campaigning door-to-door in his hometown, said that his fight is against the "misrule" of Shettar for more than two decades in Hubli-Dharwad.

    "The city has become unlivable. There is a mess all around Hubli-Dharwad. It has turned into a village without any modern amenities," said Nargund, who was a former scientist with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

    "Lack of administration and mismanagement by the sitting MLA Shettar is the reason behind all the problems of Hubli-Dharwad. I want to bring change in Hubli-Dharwad Central constituency and that is why I have joined politics," said the soft-spoken AAP leader, who has the credit of filing hundreds of RTI applications.

    The twin cities of Hubli-Dharwad, considered to be the second-largest conurbation in Karnataka after Bengaluru, today is reeling under severe water scarcity, lack of garbage disposal system, massive traffic congestion, lack of green cover and depleting lakes, to name a few problems.

    The main grouses of the 2.3 lakh voting population of the constituency are that they get water supply only once in 10 days, garbage is strewn all over places and the promised multi-crore Hubli-Dharwad Bus Rapid Transit System is still waiting for completion.

    "The pride of North Karnataka, Hubli-Dharwad, has been left abandoned by Shettar. He is answerable to our problems. Unfortunately, he is making tall claims that his constituency has 24X7 water supply and all, which are big lies," said retired government employee Somnath BR, who clarified that he owes allegiance to no political party.

    Since the BJP has already sensed "anti-incumbency" wave against Shettar in his home turf, sources stated that the leader of the Opposition in Karnataka might not contest election from his "favourite" constituency as there is a lot of anger against him. "The party will soon announce the list of candidates for the upcoming elections. The first list is likely to have big names from the BJP. We will soon know from where Shettar will contest polls," said a BJP leader from Bengaluru, who did not wish to be named.

    The Congress too is toying with the idea of fielding a strong leader against Shettar from the constituency. So, thus Nargund, has an edge over his opponents in his debut election?

    "I have almost 15 years of civic work behind me. I was working with the DRDO and later with private firms in Bengaluru, however, I always used to visit my hometown to do work for my fellow people," said Nargund.

    Nargund's commitment to his native place is well-established by the list of work which he has done so far. Some of the works which he has done as an activist and listed on the AAP website are:

    • Filed hundreds of RTI applications and conducted social audits to prevent misuse of government funds of crores of rupees

    • Prevented loot of 123 acres of government land valued at over Rs 3000 crores through PIL

    • Travelled throughout the state to conduct awareness among citizens about Sakala Act, to get their government work done without paying bribes and without delays

    • Responsible for planting over 60,000 trees so far

    • Continuously engaged in saving lakes of Hubli-Dharwad

    • Helped thousands of people and institutions in converting solid waste to compost manure to make the city clean

    • Set up several Rain Water Harvesting (RWH) facilities across the city

    • Practising chemical-free farming as a natural/organic Farmer

    • Introduced eco-friendly electric auto rickshaw service 'nimma P.A.' with Women Drivers and operating with fare meters for the first time in Hubli and the country.

    But does an activist stand any chance against seasoned leaders like Shettar who belongs to the country's biggest party? "I have been doing a door-to-door campaign for the last three months now. I can gauge people's sentiments. They want change and they are tired of misrule," smiled Nargund.

    However, Nargund, whose father PS Nargund, a much-respected mazdoor union leader, is not detached from the reality of electoral politics. "We are trying our best, but winning elections against money and muscle power is a hard task. We are challenging the traditional system," signed off Nargund.

    Karnataka Assembly Election dates
    Date of notification April 17
    Last date to file nominations April 24
    Last date to withdraw nominations April 27
    Date of polling May 12
    Date of counting May 15

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