Constituency Watch: Eyeing fifth straight win from Dharwad, Pralhad Joshi faces Lingayat seer

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Constituency Watch: Eyeing fifth straight win from Dharwad, Pralhad Joshi faces Lingayat seer

Bengaluru: The Dharwad parliamentary constituency in Karnataka is considered a high-profile seat where Union Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Coal and Mines, Pralhad Joshi, is seeking reelection for the fifth time in a row.

This time the constituency is making news as Fakir Dingaleshwara Swamiji, a Lingayt pontiff from Shirahatti Bhavaikyate Maha Sansthan, has vowed to defeat Joshi and declared his candidature as an independent candidate. Earlier, the seer had given a deadline to the BJP to change the candidate for the Dharwad MP seat.

The Congress party has fielded a dark horse, Vinod Asuti, a young leader and a close associate of Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. The party is hoping to get through with the help of the Kuruba community from which Vinod hails and the minorities and Dalits.

Pralhad Joshi is confident of an easy win. The BJP is banking on the dominant Lingayat votes in the region and also the Hindutva vote bank among all castes.

The Congress was planning to field former Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar from Dharwad against Joshi. However, Shettar returned to the BJP ahead of the Lok Sabha election. Sources said that Shettar had demanded the ticket for the Dharwad seat but the BJP allotted him the ticket for the Belagavi seat.

The constituency has about 18 lakh voters. Among them, the minorities, OBCs and Dalits comprise 10 lakh voters. Sources in the Congress revealed that the state leadership and the high command are seriously considering the candidature of Lingayat seer Dingaleshwara Swamiji.

Dingaleshwara Swamiji has alleged that Joshi is bent on finishing off the Lingayat leadership in the state. However, Mallikarjuna Swamiji of Marugha Mutt and Rajayogeendra Swamiji of Mooru Saavira Mutt, both prominent Lingayat seers, have distanced themselves from Dingaleshwara Swamiji.

Sources said that Joshi had not taken the leaders of the different communities including the Lingayat community into confidence. It is also alleged that Joshi attempted to finish off local leader and former CM Jagadish Shettar by joining hands with former CM Basavaraj Bommai.

However, former Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa has clarified that Joshi was not behind his ouster from the CM’s post. He also appealed to the Lingayats to support Joshi. Sources said that there are many forces behind the religious seer and if he gets a ticket from Congress, anything could happen.

Activist and political analyst Ashok Chandargi told IANS that, there is no issue with the work and development activities of Joshi who also has a clean image with no scandals. But Joshi’s ‘one-way traffic’ attitude can prove to be a setback for him.

The Hubballi Idgah Maidan dispute in which 6 people were killed in police firing in 1994, played a major role in the rise of the BJP in Dharwad, in north Karnataka, and in the entire state. It had become a national flashpoint. Joshi was at the forefront at that time as the president of the “Raastra Dhwaj Gourav Rakshana Samithi”.

Earlier it was known as Dharwad North MP seat. Congress candidate Vinay Kulkarni had got 4.79 lakh votes against Joshi who had won with a margin of 2.05 lakh votes. In 2014, Joshi had defeated Vinay Kulkarni by 1.11 lakh votes.

Dharwad constituency comprises Navalgund, Kundgol, Dharwad, Hubballi-Dharwad East, Hubballi-Dharwad Central, Hubballi-Dharwad West, Kalghatgi, and Shiggaon assembly constituencies. The BJP and the Congress had won four seats each in the 2019 assembly election.

Santhosh Lad, Minister for Labour, represents the Kalghatgi assembly segment. Shiggaon constituency is represented by former CM Basavaraj Bommai.

Journalist Gururaj Jamkhandi told IANS that the constituency has a history of not going by caste considerations as it has supported the candidates on merit and the party on performance. Though religion and caste have a say in the electoral outcome, in Dharwad the voters have generally not voted on caste lines in the last 17 elections since 1952.

Senior leader Manjunath Kunnur, former chief secretary B.S Patil, and Vinay Kulkarni were pitched against Joshi by the Congress. All of them tried to play the Lingayat card but failed, he stated.

Jamkhandi said that Joshi became an MP unexpectedly when Vijay Sankeshwar, an industrialist who represented the BJP three times, quit the party.

“Joshi had brought all central government schemes to the region. Electrification of railways, doubling of railway tracks, new trains, Vande Bharat and Sampark Kranthi trains. Hubballi Airport was extended and developed. IIT and IIIT institutes came to Dharwad,” he stated.

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