Close contest on the cards in Dharwad

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Raju S Vijapur,

Shivaraj SajjanarHubli, Aug 18, 2013: The ruling Congress and the BJP are making all out efforts to win the byelection to the Legislative Council from the undivided Dharwad local bodies constituency, which is witnessing a straight fight between the two parties.

While JD(S) has opted out of the fray, Shivaraj Sajjanar of the KJP, who had filed his papers, withdrew them at the last moment, paving the way for a direct contest between the Congress candidate Nagaraj Chabbi and the BJP’s Pradeep Shettar, the younger brother of former chief minister Jagadish Shettar. Sajjanar had resigned from the Council membership as he quit the BJP to join the KJP.  While it is going to be a tough contest, the BJP seems to have an edge as KJP and JD(S) have extended support to it.

A total of 7,345 voters – members of the local bodies in the undivided Dharwad constituency comprising Dharwad, Gadag and Haveri districts – will cast their votes. Dharwad district has the highest number of voters (3,307), followed by Haveri (2,117), and Gadag (1,921).

Winning the seat is key for the Congress for many reasons. For the BJP, it is crucial to win the byelection as it lost much ground in the district in the Assembly elections. Of the total voters, 6,407 are gram panchayat members. Leaders of the two parties are meeting every voter personally to seek votes. The parties have assigned the responsibility of reaching voters to the local MLAs and those who lost the Assembly elections.

Kalghatgi MLA and Dharwad district incharge Minister Santosh Lad and MLC Srinivas Mane are campaigning for Chabbi. It is crucial for Jagadish Shettar to ensure the victory of his brother, if he wants to strengthen the party in his home district.

Leaders of both the parties claim that they have a better chance. “We have the maximum members in GPs, TMCs, CMCs and the Corporation. Besides, we have maximum MLAs in the district. Everyone is working in tandem. It will be an easy win for us,” said a Congress leader.

A senior BJP leader claimed that their candidate was better placed to win given the support of KJP and JD(S). The BJP had the support of more than 50 per cent of the voters and therefore, victory was a cakewalk, he said.

But the voters, most of them GP members elected without party symbols, are playing their cards close to their chests. It is not going to be easy to convince the voters just by pleas and promises. The constituency may see a photo finish this time.

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