Bidar: N Dharam Singh, former chief minister and septuagenarian Congress leader, looks to enter the Lok Sabha for a second time in a row from the Bidar constituency.
Though it is being predicted that it is going to be easy for the veteran, there are a few factors that could spring a surprise in the constituency.
It was a relief of sorts for Singh when BJP announced the name of Bhagavant Khuba as its candidate, instead of the local satrap Gurupadappa Nagamarapalli or his son Suryakant.
But there is another local strongman Bandeppa Kashempur of JD(S), who is capable tilting the balance. The more the backward class votes that Kashempur garners the more difficult it becomes for the Congress.
There are even talks of a match-fixing between Singh and the BJP bigwigs, with the saffron party having fielded a ‘weak candidate’ in Khuba, a little known leader, reportedly at the instance of Yoga guru Baba Ramdev.
After meeting his Waterloo in his traditional Jewargi Assembly constituency in Gulbarga district in the 2008 elections, which he had fought for the eighth time in a row, the Rajput leader had indeed gone down, but hadn’t lost heart.
Within a year, he contested the Lok Sabha elections from the Bidar seat and won it, despite hostilities from different quarters.
For Singh, being out of power is like being out of water for fish. So, he has entered the fray once again, braving failing health, old age and the tag of being an outsider.
Singh claims credit for starting the Bidar-Secunderabad intercity train, the Bidar-Yeshwantpur Express, inclusion of Bidar in the National Investment Manufacturing Zone, laying the foundation stone for the study centre of the Hyderabad-based Moulana Azad National Urdu University, a Central University in Gulbarga and a proposal for setting up an helicopter manufacturing unit in Bidar.
The proposal for opening the Bidar Airport of the Indian Air Force to civilian traffic is pending.
However, a lot of water has flown in the rivers Manjra and Karanja in the last five years. Apart from the strong anti-incumbency factor, he also has to overcome the ‘Modi wave’. Also, Dharam Singh is seen as not being accessible to the people and that could go against him.
“Meeting Singh is a big problem. He seldom visits Bidar. If there is a local man, we can meet him at any time to get our grievances redressed,’’ said Mallinath, a small-time businessman of Humnabad.
The crowd-pulling Baba is sparing a day for Bidar to attract votes for Khuba and that may brighten his chances. Narendra Modi addressed a rally in Bidar recently and that is another key plus point for the BJP candidate.
Kashempur is concentrating on grassroots level canvassing and is busy going door-to-door in the villages, turning the contest into a triangular one.
Lack of industry is a major problem that elected representatives here have failed to tackle. In the 1980s, Bidar was classified as the lone Zero Industry District in the entire South. A number of incentives and concessions were announced by the State and the centre.
A few chemical industries came up, polluted Bidar, pocketed subsidy and vanished. The new MP would do well to make industrialisation a top priority here.
Of the eight Assembly segments in Bidar, the Congress has only Humnabad, Bhalki, and Chincholi in its control. Singh may fare well in these constituencies, but has to sweat it out in the other five. There are 24 candidates in the fray, including Chandrakant Kulkarni of the AAP and Shankar Bhayya of BSP. In last year’s Assembly election, Bidar had been liberal in electing the candidates of five parties: Congress, BJP, JD(S), KJP, and Karnataka Makkala Paksha of Ashok Kheny.
While deriding Dharam Singh in his public speech, Modi had said he had come to Bidar to give a send-off to the former. One has to wait for May 16 for an answer.