Karnataka polls: BJP faces tough fight in Kittur region
The BJP, which has a strong presence in the old Kittur area of Karnataka, is facing a tough battle, thanks to the high profile defections of former Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar, Deputy Chief Minister Laxman Savadi and other leaders.
Dharwad: The BJP, which has a strong presence in the old Kittur area of Karnataka, is facing a tough battle, thanks to the high profile defections of former Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar, Deputy Chief Minister Laxman Savadi and other leaders.
The active and grassroot presence of RSS has been a major strength for the BJP in this area. However with a leader like Jagadish Shettar known for his RSS roots coming out of the party and openly challenging the national leadership has shocked the RSS and BJP cadres and many feel that the BJP leadership has not done justice to a leader like Shettar who is instrumental in building BJP a major force in the area.
It may be noted that in the 2018 assembly elections, BJP won 30 out of the 50 seats from the Kittur area. It also won all the five seats falling in the Kittur area in the by-elections after defection of 14 Congress and three Janata Dal(S) MLAs in the state.
The election is fought in this area mainly on caste, reservation and identity issues.
In Bagalkot and Vijayapura districts of the Kittur region, there is a good influence of Banajiga, Panchamasali and Ganiga groups which are the sub-sects of the powerful Lingayat community. Leaders like Jagadish Shettar and Laxman Savadi have created a narrative that the BJP was trying to sideline the Lingayat community and this has struck a chord with a section of the voters.
45-year-old Prashanth, a businessman from Dharwad, while speaking to IANS said, “The Lingayat community is angry with the BJP trying to sideline the community. Senior leader Jagadish Shettar was given an unceremonious exit and this is affecting the BJP in these areas. While Laxman Savadi is also a senior Lingayat leader, the treatment to Shettar will not go down well in this region. Prahlad Joshi is the man behind this and he is a Brahmin.”
Laxman Savadi, according to local people, is also very highly rated in 10 to 12 constituencies in the Kittur region from Belagavi to Bidar and this can also affect the prospects of the BJP candidates in the area.
While Basavaraj Bommai does not have much of an opposition in his constituency Shiggaon, he seems not to have much influence in the region when compared to Shettar and Savadi.
The BJP fielding a habitual offender with more than 30 criminal cases in his name, Manikanta Rathode in Chittapur assembly constituency against the sitting MLA, Priyang Kharge is being highlighted by the Congress across North Karnataka. This has also dented BJP’s image as a party with clean image in northern parts of the state.
With high pitched campaign nearing its end, it is to be seen as to what the BJP will try to turn around the voters.
The saffron party is trying to get maximum seats from Kittur region as it has always been a strong hold for the party. However, only time will tell whether the exit of of Jagadish Shettar and Laxman Savadi would impact the prospects of the party.