Hubli (Karnataka): A win on his home turf here has become a matter of both survival and prestige for Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar as he is going the whole hog for a fifth victory from Hubli-Dharwad constituency.
The ruling BJP is seeking to make Hubli-Dharwad the new epicentre of its campaign for the May 5 Assembly polls in the absence of former party strongman B S Yeddyurappa's pan-Karnataka influence, to keep its strong base in north Karnataka intact.
The prestige invested in this contest by soft spoken and sober Shettar is mirrored in his wife Shilpa Shettar hitting the streets in scorching heat for a door-to-door campaign. Shettar is perceived to have a clear cut edge over his rivals.
Political pundits have predicted a victory for Shettar with a depleted margin, as local leader of Yeddyurappa's Karnataka Janata Party and former minister Jabbar Khan Honnalli and Somvanshya Sahasrarjun Kshatriya Samaj and former BJP leader Ashok Katwe are working to ensure their community votes for the Congress under a reported tacit understanding.
This could be a little worrisome for Shettar who had won the seat by 26,000 votes in the 2008 polls that saw the installation of the first-ever BJP Government in the South.
Karnataka University Political Science Professor Dr Harish said Shettar would win, not for his performance as a Chief Minister to develop his constituency, but because of the voters loyalty to a particular political ideology.
"The voters, especially SSK Samaj in Hubli-Dharwad central assembly constituency have been loyal to a political ideology (Jan Sangh). Shettar's father was a Jan Sanghi with a clean image which the CM has also been successful to maintain," he says.
Laxmikant Hutgikar, a businessman and five-time
nominated Hubli-Dharwad Urban Development Authority member said, "The loyalty factor does not wane for any party either."
Mohan Kabadi, a veteran belonging to SSK Samaj and having seen almost 10 assembly elections in the constituency, said Katwe's association with KJP would not damage Shettar's victory prospects but weaken the margin.
"People who are loyal to Jan Sangh ideology, who are more in numbers, would vote for BJP. The ones who had sought help from Katwe they may mobilise their community to vote for KJP or help Congress," he said.
As a political novice, Shettar himself had made sensation when he defeated former Chief Minister S R Bommai's son Basavaraj Bommai with a margin of 15,974 votes in 1994 polls.
Shettar now faces a political novice. He is in the fray against Congress' Dr Mahesh Nalwad and Shams Tabrez Samsi of JDS. In all, 32 candidates, including 24 independents, are in the fray.
Belonging to Lingayat community as Shettar, Nalwad is betting on the Chief Minister's alleged failure to improve Hubli's infrastructure. He also banks on a "Congress wave."
A point of bother for Congress is the party's internal bickering. JDS is counting on minority votes. However, it is likely to indirectly help BJP, since the JD(S) is expected to split minority votes.
The KJP candidate for Hubli-Dharwad Central Assembly constituency is S S Patil, son of Adargunchi Shankargouda Patil, who had fought for the unification of the state.
All said and done, Shettar has remained unbeaten winning four times in a row. His steady rise in the political graph saw him become Opposition leader, State BJP president, a Speaker, a Minister and Chief Minister.
The constituency, which has given two Chief Ministers, was a Congress bastion till 1978 when S R Bommai of erstwhile Janata Party won it and later went on to head the ministry in 1988.
Later years have seen BJP’s rise here. Its vote share was 54.75 per cent in 2008 while that of Congress 30.51 per cent and JD(S) 11.13 per cent.
If the recent results of Urban Local Bodies polls are any indication, BJP seems to be comfortably positioned as it won 12 of the 19 wards of Hubli-Dharwad Municipal Corporation in the constituency.