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Karnataka: Tough fight for Congress' unofficial CM candidate
Vicky Nanjappa | May 18, 2008 22:14 IST
While the battle between H D Kumaraswamy and B S Yeddyurappa, the chief ministerial candidates from the Janata Dal � Secular and the Bharatiya Janata Party, were hyped up, the battle involving Mallikarjuna Kharge remains a low key affair.
Kharge, the unofficial chief ministerial candidate for the Congress, is contesting from the Chittapur constituency in Gulbarga district, which will go to the polls on May 22.
Kharge had to opt out of Gurmitkal constituency, where he has won the state elections since 1972, after the delimitation process.
Kharge decided to move to Chittapur after the constituency was declared reserved. Kharge is pitched against two strong candidates from the JD-S and the BJP.
Chittapur, which has a voter population of 1.6 lakh, is dominated by people from the Scheduled Castes / Scheduled Tribes and the Lingayats. The Kabaligas also form a sizeable vote bank here.
Both the JD-S and the BJP are battling hard to gain a chunk of the Lingayat votes. Meanwhile, Kharge will depend heavily on the Kabaliga community and the SC/STs.
Kharge's campaign managers told rediff.com that they are comfortable in this constituency. They have promised the people that the constituency would be developed on the lines of Gurmitkal if Kharge is voted into power.
The JD-S camp feels that the ride will not be easy for Kharge. The people are not sure whether he will become the chief minister as the Congress has not made any official announcement till now.
During his campaign, Khrage never fails to remind the voter that he is very much a part of Chittapur constituency, as his father-in-law is from Gundugurthi, which falls under this constituency.
Various strategies are being worked out to keep Kharge at bay. In the case of Kumaraswamy, the Congress fielded Mamatha Nichani from Ramnagar on the belief that women candidates are unlucky for the Gowdas. To counter Yeddyurappa, S Bangarappa was fielded and both the JD-S and the Congress withdrew their candidates from Shikaripura to ensure that he did not have a smooth ride.
The anti-Congress camp is working overtime to turn the Lingayat voters against Kharge.
The Lingayats, who will make a huge difference to the fortune of each candidate in this constituency, are constantly being wooed by the BJP, which is trying to portray itself as a party of the Lingayats.
Vishwanath Patil from the JD-S, who has won the elections from this constituency thrice, has joined the anti-Congress bandwagon. Patil, who hails from the Lingayat community, is capable of taking the Lingayat votes away from the Congress.
The Congress, which is aware of this ploy, is pinning its hopes on the SC/ST and Kabaliga votes.
However the anti-Congress faction has roped in disgruntled Congress leader Vitthal Herur. Herur was initially promised a ticket but not given one eventually. He controls a large number of Kabaliga votes and he has now been entrusted with the job of splitting the Congress' vote bank.
Kharge has been an aspirant for the chief minister's post since 1999. He first lost it to S M Krishna and then to N Dharam Singh in 2004. Several people within the Congress feel that Kharge will finally become the chief minister this time if the party comes to power. These elections will be crucial for Kharge, as this might be his last shot at the coveted chief minister's chair.