Last poll: Dharam wants to go out with a hurrah

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Bidar: Possibly fighting his last electoral battle, winning is very important for former Chief Minister N. Dharam Singh these Lok Sabha polls. On the other hand, the BJP’s Bhagwan Khuba is hoping he will prove giant slayer in Bidar despite it being his very first poll. JD(S) candidate, Bandeppa Kashempur, too has his hopes up as if the party can win anywhere in North Karnataka, it is in Bidar.

But Mr Singh is believed to have won half the battle already after the BJP gave up the idea of fielding Mr Suryakanth Nagamarapally, son of former minister Gurupadappa Nagmarapally, who could have been a tough challenger. It instead chose Mr Khuba, who is said to have got the ticket owing to yoga guru, Baba Ramdev’s intervention. Many political observers, however, seem to think it was Mr Singh who plotted to keep Mr Suryakanth away to improve his own chances.

As in the previous election, the wily old politician is said to have already turned the poll into a fight between between the forward castes (Lingayats and Brahmins) and the backwards (Dalits, Muslims, Christians), positioning himself as the champion of the latter.

Of the 15.99 lakh voters in the constituency spread over six assembly segments of Bidar district and two assembly segments, Chincholi and Aland of neighbouring Gulbarga district, the Dalits constitute 26% , the Lingayats, 22%, Muslims, 18%, Marathas, 12% and OBCs such as Kurubas, Kabbaligas and Hatkars the rest.

Mr Singh is said to have the solid backing of Dalits, Muslims and other backward communities and a good portion of Maratha voters as well.

With Article 371(J), and pro-poor welfare measures such as the Anna Bhagya, and Ksheera Bhagya to back him, he seems to be sitting pretty this time.

But on the other hand, Bidar has a history of sending the saffron brigade to Parliament. “Though the present BJP candidate has nothing to say for himself, he has the party network and the strong Modi wave to fall back on. We cannot take him lightly,” admits a senior Congress leader.

The bigger challenge could however come from, Mr Kashempur, who has maintained a good rapport with the people. The 59,000 new voters, who are mostly youngsters, could also impact the poll outcome.

Former minister Gurupadappa Nagamarapally, upset at his son, Suryakanth, being denied a ticket, has reportedly decided to teach the BJP a lesson by remaining neutral in the coming elections. Mr Nagamarapally, who has not visited the town after the announcement of tickets, was absent at the rally of BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi here on Wednesday.

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