Testing time for Karnataka Congress chief in new frontier

May 21st, 2008 - 9:24 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Bahujan Samaj Party
By Fakir Balaji
Chittapur (Karnataka), May 21 (IANS) Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president Mallikarjun Kharge is facing a litmus test in this newly reserved constituency as he seeks his ninth victory in the state assembly election Thursday. The 65-year-old Kharge, who represented adjacent Gurmitkal in the assembly for eight times in row, has been forced to shift to Chittapur after his home constituency was de-reserved in the delimitation exercise.

A frontrunner for the chief minister’s post if the Congress secures a majority, Kharge is pitted against popular trade union leader Valmiki Kamalu Nayak Valmiki of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Basavaraj Bennur of Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) and Raja Mukkanna Wadi of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).

The Janata Dal-United (JD-U), the Lok Jan Shakti Party (LJSP) of central minister Ramvilas Paswan and an independent are also in the fray.

Though Kharge has been invincible in every election since 1972, he undertook an intense campaign in scorching summer to repeat the feat in a new frontier, which is most backward compared to the much developed Gurmitkal in terms of basic amenities, be it rural roads, drinking water supply, schools, primary health centres and community halls.

Along with former chief minister N. Dharam Singh, also locked in a do-or-die battle from the neighbouring Jewargi segment to retain the seat for the ninth time, Kharge is considered as the only other tall leader in the erstwhile Hyderabad-Karnataka region with over four decades in politics.

Banking on his popularity in Gurmitkal for the development works accomplished during his 36-year-old association with its people, Kharge did door-to-door canvassing and walked the distance (padayatra) to tell the people of Chittapur that they would also benefit similarly if he was elected from the reserved segment.

“I may be new contestant from here, but not an outsider as my opponents are branding. I am committed to develop Chittapur on the lines of Gurmitkal. Though I could have stood from any of the 11 reserved constituencies in this Deccan region, I have been chosen to contest from here by the local people,” Kharge told IANS.

The sailing for Kharge, however, appears not so smooth due to the reservations of the dominant Lingayat community in voting for a Dalit due to historical reasons.

The going has become tougher for Kharge by the presence of the JD-S, BSP and LJSP, which are working overtime to chip into his party’s traditional votes from minorities, Dalits, tribals and backward classes who collectively outnumber upper caste voters in a constituency of 176,261 people.

Of the total number of voters, Lingayats account for over 65,000, Koli/Kabliga about 40,000, Banjara/Lambani 32,000, minorities 25,000 and Dalits and tribals 20,000.

As trade union leader in Asia’s largest cement plant ACC Ltd at Wadi, Valmiki is upbeat on putting up a tough fight against Kharge by rallying Banajras, Kabligas and Lingayats to prevent the latter from creating history by winning for the ninth time consequently.

When counting takes place May 25, Chittapur verdict may hold key to Kharge’s prospects of occupying the top executive post if his party too gets past the halfway-mark.

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