North Karnataka: BJP, Congress in direct fight for 14 Lok Sabha seats

The BJP is looking to recreate its 2019 sweep, when it won all seats, but the Congress is pulling out all stops to make gains in this crucial region.

Published : May 06, 2024 20:04 IST - 10 MINS READ

A man dressed as Mahatma Gandhi stands amid the gathering during Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s public meeting for the Lok Sabha elections 2024, in Davanagere on May 4.

A man dressed as Mahatma Gandhi stands amid the gathering during Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s public meeting for the Lok Sabha elections 2024, in Davanagere on May 4. | Photo Credit: ANI

The BJP and the Congress are locked in a direct fight for the 14 Lok Sabha seats of north Karnataka that will vote on May 7. In 2019, the BJP swept this region, winning all the 14 constituencies, with the Congress suffering a rout even in its traditional heartland of Kalyana Karnataka (the north-eastern division of the State). The JD (S), which is part of the BJP alliance, has not been allotted any seat in north Karnataka, where it has a limited support base.

Among other issues, the BJP highlighted the murder of a Hindu girl named Neha Hiremath by a Muslim classmate in Hubballi. The BJP’s star campaigners, such as Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, also targeted the Congress over issues such as the inheritance tax, even though it has not been mentioned in the Congress manifesto.

H.V. Vasu, the research head of Eedina, spoke about how Karnataka is likely to witness a “historic” change in voting patterns in the 2024 Lok Sabha election. | Video Credit: Interview by Vikhar Ahmed Sayeed; Camera by Rabi Debnath; Editing by Samson Ronald K.

The Congress is hoping to make gains in the part of the State on the back of its implementation of five guarantees. Part of its campaign has also focused on the Prajwal Revanna scandal, with Congress leaders accusing the BJP of endorsing his candidature despite knowing all about his character.

Also Read | South Karnataka: April 26 to see tough fight for 14 seats

The incumbents and the challengers

A full list of the constituencies voting on May 7 in Karnataka, with brief details about the candidates, follows:

Chikkodi: The BJP has renominated its incumbent MP, Annasaheb Jolle, who, confident of his renomination began his campaign six months ago in this north-west corner of Karnataka. Pitted against him is Priyanka Jarkiholi, a political novice. While the young Congress candidate does not have any political experience, she is the daughter of Karnataka Minister Satish Jarkiholi who, along with his brothers, is a powerhouse in the politics of Karnataka. Jolle is a Lingayat while Jarkiholi is a Valmiki, which is recognised as Scheduled Tribe. Of the eight Assembly constituencies forming part of the Chikkodi parliamentary constituency, five are represented by the Congress while the BJP has three MLAs.

Belagavi: Former Union Minister Suresh Angadi ensured that Belagavi became a BJP fortress by winning from this constituency continuously from 2004. In the byelection that took place after his death, his wife, Mangala Savadi, was victorious in 2021, but this time, the BJP has chosen to field its former Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar. Shettar was an aspirant for the neighbouring Dharwad Lok Sabha seat but has been accommodated in Belagavi after he returned from the Congress’ fold, which he had joined prior to the Assembly election last year. Shettar is a Lingayat like his Congress opponent, Mrinal Hebbalkar. This will be the first electoral contest for Hebbalkar whose mother, Laxmi Hebbalkar, is a Minister in the Congress government in power in the State.

Bagalkot: BJP’s four-time winner from this constituency, P.C. Gaddigoudar, takes on political debutant Samyukta Patil of the Congress. Samyukta is the daughter of Shivanand Patil, an incumbent Minister in the Karnataka government, who is putting all his efforts in ensuring her victory. Both the candidates belong to the Lingayat community, with Gaddigoudar belonging to the Ganiga sub-caste and Patil to the Panchamsali sub-caste. Gaddigoudar is banking on his non-controversial and friendly image and the fact that Patil does not belong to Bagalkot to boost his chances of re-election. Samyukta Patil, on the other hand, is focusing on the successful implementation of the Congress’ five guarantees.

Karnataka BJP president B.Y. Vijayendra pays tribute to Neha Hiremath, a student who was stabbed to death by a classmate, in Hubballi on April 23. The murder has become a major political rallying point in the run-up to the election.

Karnataka BJP president B.Y. Vijayendra pays tribute to Neha Hiremath, a student who was stabbed to death by a classmate, in Hubballi on April 23. The murder has become a major political rallying point in the run-up to the election. | Photo Credit: PTI

Bijapur: The contest in this reserved constituency (SC) is between Ramesh Jigajinagi, a veteran parliamentarian from the BJP, and a Hanumant (Raju) Alagur of the Congress, a former MLA. Jigajinagi is a six-time parliamentarian who belongs to the left-hand agglomeration of Dalits in Karnataka. The Congress, which picked Lambani (considered a touchable Dalit caste) candidates in the past, has changed its strategy this time around. Alagur served as an MLA for two terms and belongs to the right-hand agglomeration of Dalits in Karnataka. The JD (S) has a limited base here but that has eroded after its alliance with the BJP. Lingayats and Dalits are the two largest communities but there are also significant numbers of Muslims and Kurubas.

Also Read | In Karnataka, it’s a battle of ‘guarantees’

Kalaburagi: Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge had never lost an election throughout his long political career spanning over five decades until 2019, when Umesh Jadhav of the BJP defeated him in this reserved (SC) constituency by a margin of almost 1 lakh votes. Jadhav has been renominated from the BJP while the Congress has nominated Radhakrishna Doddamani, a choice that surprised many, but the fact that he is Kharge’s son-in-law has ensured that any opposition to his candidature has been subdued. Six of the eight MLAs from the constituency are with the Congress, while the BJP and JD (S) have one MLA each. Apart from Dalits, Lingayats and Muslims constitute an important component of the electorate.

Raichur: The contest in this reserved constituency (ST) is interesting because of a quirky coincidence. The Congress’ candidate is former civil servant G. Kumar Naik, who was the Deputy Commissioner of Raichur district between 1999 and 2002. His opponent, Raja Amareshwar Naik, the scion of a minor local royal family, was a Minister and district in-charge of Raichur during Kumar Naik’s tenure. Thus, the two candidates who worked together while administering the district are now competing against each other. In the Assembly election of 2023, the Congress won five seats while the BJP won two and the JD (S) one. Apart from Valmikis, Dalits, Muslims, Kurubas, and Lingayats are the significant communities in this constituency.

Bidar: A political greenhorn from the Congress, 26-year-old Sagar Khandre, who is a third-generation politician, will take on Union Minister Bhagwant Khuba, who is aiming for a hat-trick victory from this constituency. While Sagar is the candidate, Khuba’s real fight is with his father, Eshwar Khandre, Forest and Environment Minister, who is investing all his resources and energy to ensure his son’s victory. This is one of the few Lok Sabha seats in Karnataka where the BJP has more MLAs than the Congress. While the BJP emerged victorious in eight Assembly seats in last year’s Assembly election, the Congress was able to win in three. Apart from Lingayats. who form the largest chunk of the electorate, Dalits, tribal people, and Muslims are present in significant numbers.

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge with party leaders during a public meeting for the Lok Sabha election, in North Kalaburagi on May 4.

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge with party leaders during a public meeting for the Lok Sabha election, in North Kalaburagi on May 4. | Photo Credit: ANI

Koppal: The constituency has been electing candidates from the BJP over the past three Lok Sabha elections but the party suffered a setback after its two-term MP, Karadi Sanganna Amarappa, joined the Congress after he was denied a ticket and the BJP chose Dr Basavaraj Kyavater as its candidate. An orthopaedic, Dr Kyavater is a Lingayat, while his Congress opponent, Rajashekar Hitnal, is a Kuruba. Hitnal contested the 2019 election as well while his father, Basavaraj Hitnal, contested and lost in 2014 against Amarappa. Rajashekar Hitnal is hoping to finally avenge the two defeats that he and his father suffered at the hands of the BJP and is also banking on the consolidation of the votes of backward communities, Muslims, Dalits, and tribal voters.

Bellary: In this reserved seat (ST), the BJP’s B. Sriramulu will face the Congress’ E. Tukaram. Sriramulu became infamous during the iron ore mining scandal that rocked Karnataka in the 2000s because of his intimate relationship with the Reddy brothers but has since transcended the stigma of that association to emerge as a leader of the Valmiki community. Sriramulu’s significant political stints as Minister and the entry of Janardhan Reddy’s party into the BJP fold has also increased his support base. Tukaram is also a Valmiki and has a clean image in this constituency where both parties have an entrenched support base.

Haveri: This is the first time that a former Chief Minister will be contesting from this constituency in central Karnataka. Basavaraj Bommai of the BJP, who helmed the State from 2021 to 2023, is pitted against a young Congress candidate, Anandaswamy Gaddadevaramath. Both the candidates belong to the Lingayat community. Bommai is focusing on his achievements during his tenure as Chief Minister, while Gaddadevaramath is banking on the solid gains that the Congress made in this constituency’s Assembly segments in last year’s election, when it won seven of the eight seats. Apart from Lingayats. who form the overwhelming majority, there are large numbers of Dalits, tribal people, and Muslims in the constituency.

Dharwad: The BJP’s candidate, Union Minister Pralhad Joshi, a Brahmin, is hoping for his fifth consecutive victory from this constituency. A young Congress leader, Vinod Asuti, who belong to the backward Kuruba caste, is the challenger. A Lingayat pontiff Fakir Dingaleshwar had filed his nomination papers intending to contest as an independent candidate as he was miffed with the BJP’s choice of a Brahmin candidate in this constituency where Lingayats form an overwhelming majority, but he later withdrew his candidature, vowing to ensure the defeat of Joshi. This decision may help consolidate votes in favour of the Congress although the BJP is focusing on the murder of Neha Hiremath, who was a resident of Hubballi which forms part of this constituency, and casting the crime as a larger conspiracy of ‘love jehad’.

Uttara Kannada: This coastal constituency is considered a safe seat for the BJP as former Union Minister Anantkumar Hegde has won it on six occasions since 1996. Hegde was considered a frontrunner this time as well but was replaced by former Karnataka Assembly Speaker Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri, after the former’s controversial remarks suggesting that the Constitution would be changed if the BJP won more than 400 seats. As this constituency incorporates parts of Belagavi district, where the BJP surges ahead, the Congress picked former MLA Dr Anjali Nimbalkar, who is from Khanapur. as its candidate. The demographic breakup of the constituency is also unique in Karnataka as religious minorities (Muslims and Christians) form the single largest chunk of the voters. There are also significant numbers of Marathas, Dalits, and tribal and Namdhari voters.

Government officials on poll duty with equipment allotted to them before moving to their polling booths, in Haveri on May 6.

Government officials on poll duty with equipment allotted to them before moving to their polling booths, in Haveri on May 6. | Photo Credit: Sajay Ritti

Davanagere: This is the only constituency where both the main contenders are women and notably, one of the few constituencies in Karnataka where women voters outnumber men. A Lingayat stronghold of central Karnataka, Davanagere has long been the fiefdom of two families: that of Shamanur Shivashankarappa of the Congress and G.N. Mallikarjunappa of the BJP. The two contestants in the fray now are the daughters-in-law of these patriarchs and thus, the current electoral contest of Davanagere is being seen as a continuation of the battle between these two families. A rebel Congress candidate, G.B. Vinay Kumar, is also in the fray in this constituency where Lingayats, tribal people, Dalits, and Muslims are present in large numbers. Of the eight MLAs from this seat, seven are with the Congress while the BJP has only one MLA.

Shivamogga: The entry of BJP rebel candidate K.S. Eshwarappa in what was slated to be a direct and prestigious fight between the children of two former Chief ministers from the BJP and Congress has ensured that Shivamogga has been in the limelight for the past few months. B.Y. Raghavendra, son of former Cheif Minister B.S. Yediyurappa, who has represented this constituency thrice, is known for maintaining a low profile and is banking on Lingayat support and avid Hindutva adherents to see him through. His challenger is Geeta Shivarajkumar, who has multiple and illustrious antecedents: she is the daughter of former Chief Minister S. Bangarappa, the daughter-in-law of Kannada film legend Dr Rajkumar and wife of Kannada cinema’s reigning star, Shivarajkumar. She is also the and sister of Minister Madhu Bangarappa. She hopes that the large number of Idiga and Muslim voters in the constituency will see her through.

Summing up, the 14 Lok Sabha constituencies of north Karnataka represent the larger political battle being waged across the State. With high-profile candidates (many of whom are political dynasts), intense family rivalries, and crucial caste equations at play, the region promises a thrilling electoral contest between the BJP and the Congress. The performance of these two national parties in this belt will significantly influence the Lok Sabha results. As voters head to the booths on May 7, all eyes will be on whether the BJP can repeat its sweep of 2019 or if the Congress can regain its traditional strongholds through its successful implementation of the five guarantees.

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