The Congress is keen on regaining the Chikkodi Lok Sabha seat and towards this end it is seeking to field a Minister in the Siddaramaiah government to contest the election.
The constituency, once considered a bastion of the Congress, has, over a period of time, slipped from the party’s control and has been with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) since 2004.
It was from Chikkodi, which was a reserved seat then, that Congress’s noted leader B. Shankaranand won for a record seven times in a row from 1967 to 1991. He went on to become a Union Minister in the Cabinets headed by Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and P.V. Narasimha Rao. And he also headed the Joint Parliamentary Committee set up to inquire into the charges of kickbacks in the controversial Bofors howitzer deal.
However, in 1996 Janata Dal’s Ratnamala Dhareshwar Savanoor snatched the seat from the Congress by defeating Mr. Shankaranand. In 1998, Ramesh Jigajinagi won it as a Lok Shakti candidate by defeating Mr. Shankaranand and then went on to win the next two elections as the Janata Dal (United) (in 1999) and the BJP (in 2004) candidate.
Comprising of eight Assembly segments — Athani, Chikkodi-Sadalga, Hukkeri, Kagwad, Kudachi, Nippani, Raibag and Yamkanmardi, the Chikkodi Lok Sabha constituency was made a general seat after delimitation, and BJP’s Ramesh Katti won it in 2009.
Mr. Ramesh Katti, the younger brother of the former Minister and BJP MLA Umesh Katti, has been chosen as the BJP candidate for Chikkodi. As the Katti brothers are considered to have a sway over the electorate, especially because of their control over two sugar factories in the region, the Congress high command is planning to field a serious contender against them.
According to Congress sources, the party is looking for a Lingayat candidate who can take on the Katti brothers (also Lingayats), and Prakash Hukkeri, who gave them a tough fight in the previous Lok Sabha election, is considered to be a natural choice. Mr. Hukkeri, who represents the Chikkodi-Sadalaga Assembly segment, is a Minister in the Siddaramaiah Cabinet.
While Chief Minister Siddaramaiah is said to be keen on fielding his Cabinet colleague, Mr. Hukkeri, who seems to be a bit hesitant to contest, is reportedly pushing for the candidature of his son Ganesh for the constituency.
Although the party is not considering any other aspirant for the constituency, in case the Minister or his son’s candidature is ruled out, then A.B. Patil, who contested as the Janata Dal (S) candidate in the previous election and has now switched over to the Congress, might get a chance to fight it out against the Katti brothers.
The JD(S), which has almost lost its base as its main leaders joined the BJP after the Assembly elections, might field a candidate for a symbolic fight.