Home india-news Congress, BJP eye key Panchamasali votes in Karnataka elections | Latest News India

Congress, BJP eye key Panchamasali votes in Karnataka elections | Latest News India

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Congress, BJP eye key Panchamasali votes in Karnataka elections | Latest News India

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Belagavi Just a handful of journalists were present at the Bharatiya Janata Party’s media centre in Belagavi to attend state spokesperson Maruti Zirali’s presser. The rest were tracking Kannada movie star Kiccha Sudeep’s roadshow in a district vitally important to the ruling party’s prospects of retaining majority in the assembly in polls scheduled on May 10.

Panchamasali Lingayat leaders during a protest to push for reservation, in 2022. (PTI)
Panchamasali Lingayat leaders during a protest to push for reservation, in 2022. (PTI)

A highway connecting the busy commercial town of Hubbali, an IIT in the middle of the mango orchards in Dharwad and the mini Vidhan Saudha outside Belagavi town, where the Karnataka assembly meets once in a year, are clear signs why this district and the larger Kittur Karnataka (erstwhile Mumbai-Karnataka) is so important for the BJP.

The largest district outside Bengaluru, Belagavi has 18 seats. The BJP has 13 MLAs and the Congress, five. For a successive term in power, the saffron outfit needs to decisive mandates in districts such as Belagavi, just as it eyes a larger chunk of the Old Mysuru belt, the largest electoral region of the state.

As Old Mysuru is Karnataka’s main habitat for the Vokkaliga community, in Belagavi, as in many parts of Kittur Karnataka, the politics is largely about Lingayat aspirations.

“We are showcasing developmental work, especially for farmers. Our government allocated funds for long-pending irrigations projects. We launched free education schemes to benefit 40 lakh children from farming families. We have developed logistics in rural areas and giving free power and an additional 4,000 over Kisan Samman Nidhi to farmers. There are interest-free loans and lift irrigation schemes,” Zirali said. “Remember, chief minister (Basavaraj) Bommai is an engineer and he was earlier irrigation minister.”

The focus on farmers underline the BJP’s major concern, the Panchamasali Lingayats. This dominant sub-sect of Lingayats are mainly farmers. And even as the Bommai government has increased the Lingayat quota by 2% to essentially accommodate the Panchamasalis, they are still upset.

At a tea stall of Mammigatti, a Panchamasali Lingayat, Murugesh R, admits that the BJP has done a lot of work and “it has become easier for us to move our produce.” “But the reservation issue remains a problem,” he quipped.

The Panchamasalis have been allotted reservation in the state’s 3B list, which fixes their quota within 3B at 5%. The Panchamasalis want to be included in the 2A list, where the Banajiga Lingayats are, as it allows them 15% reservation.

The BJP is leaving no stones unturned to woo electors. BS Yeddyiurappa is crisscrossing the district with Panchamasali leaders of the party. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who held a roadshow in Belagavi in February this year, will hold a rally later this week. Union home minister Amit Shah, too, will campaign here.

The Congress office at Chanamma circle, on the other hand, wears a deserted look. All leaders are touring the rural areas, where Panchamasalis live in large numbers.

“Reservation in 3A gives no benefit. Farmers are irritated that during floods and drought, Modi didn’t come to visit Belagavi,” district president Vinay Navalgatti said. “Moreover, in five years, Bommai made 600 promises but delivered less than 50.”


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