Veteran vs newcomer: BJP’s Jagadish Shettar takes on Cong’s Mrinal Hebbalkar in K’taka’s Belagavi

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Veteran vs newcomer: BJP’s Jagadish Shettar takes on Cong’s Mrinal Hebbalkar in K’taka’s Belagavi

Bengaluru:  Veteran BJP leader and former Karnataka Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar, who is the BJP candidate from the Belagavi Parliamentary Constituency will face the Congress’ young face, Mrinal Hebbalkar, thus making the contest interesting.

The BJP gave Shettar the ticket despite some opposition from the local leaders, who carried out the ‘go back’ campaign against him and also approached the party’s central leadership. However, following former CM B.S. Yediyurappa and his son, state President B.Y. Vijayendra’s support, Shettar’s name was finally announced in the second list.

Shettar had quit the BJP on the threshold of the last Assembly election in the state after the denial of the ticket by the BJP. He had raised the banner of revolt against the party and joined the Congress. The grand old party took maximum advantage of the development and projected the development as the BJP trying to finish off the Lingayat leadership.

Jagadish Shettar was fielded from the Central Assembly seat as a Congress candidate. Though he lost the election to his once right-hand man Mahesh Tenginakayi, a BJP candidate, Shettar was made the Congress MLC. However, Yediyurappa and Vijayendra got him back into the BJP ahead of the Lok Sabha election.

Shettar is now in a delicate phase in his political career and has to prove his mettle and relevance by retaining the seat considered the bastion of the BJP.

On the other hand, the Congress candidate Mrinal Hebbalkar, a young face, is hopeful of attracting the minorities, backwards and Dalits. He is the son of Minister for Woman and Child Welfare Laxmi Hebbalkar, a close associate of DyCM and state President D.K. Shivakumar. Laxmi Hebbalkar, a Lingayat, is also on good terms with Chief Minister Siddaramaiah.

Belagavi Lok Sabha seat comprises Arabhavi, Gokak, Belagavi North, Belagavi South, Belagavi Rural, Bailhongal, Saundatti Yellamma and Ramdurg Assembly constituencies. BJP holds three seats and five seats are represented by the Congress MLAs.

Ramesh Jarkiholi, one of the BJP faces of the backward classes in the state represents the Gokak seat and his brother Balachandra Jarkiholi represents the Arabhavi Assembly segment. Minister Laxmi Hebbalkar is sitting MLA from the Belagavi Rural seat.

Former Union Minister late Suresh Angadi represented the seat for two decades by winning from Belagavi in 1999, 2004, 2009, 2014 and 2019 general elections. After his demise during the Covid pandemic, his wife Mangala Angadi won the seat for BJP in the 2021 by-election.

The seat was won by JD(S) in 1996. From 1957 to 1991 Congress held the Belagavi seat. Suresh Angadi had registered a thumping victory in 2019 and defeated the Congress candidate by about three lakh votes. However, in the by-election, the margin came down drastically to 5,240 votes. Minister for PWD Satish Jarkiholi was the Congress candidate then.

The Congress party is to break the influential Lingayat vote bank and get votes of Dalits, OBC and minorities to defeat the BJP. However, the BJP camp is confident that the Lingayat vote bank will not break and Dalits and OBCs will support them. The BJP is also relying on the sizable Maratha voters.

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