The Marathas are up in arms against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after it dropped the incumbent Maratha MLA Anil Benake from its candidates list for the Belagavi North seat. The excuse is that he had got considerably low marks in two surveys conducted by the BJP — one in September 2022 and another in February 2023. The surveys reportedly indicated that Benake’s popularity had come down and that he could lose if nominated. The real reasons are that he had opposed the statement of some extremist Hindutva leaders who had called for a ban on Muslim traders in local fairs and more importantly, Benake had not supported the call for excavation in a mosque in the old city area after Belagavi South MLA Abhay Patil alleged that the Shahi Masjid in Bapat Galli was built on the debris of a Hanuman temple.
The Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti (MES) has fielded Ramakant Kanduskar, chief of Sri Ram Sena Hindustan against Abhay Patil in Belagavi South. Two Hindu hotheads Abhay Patil and Ramakant Kanduskar will confuse the voters in the Belagavi South seat. They will cut each other’s political throats. The followers of Belagavi North MLA Anil Benake held a protest at Rani Channamma Circle in Belagavi on 12th April. In a turn of events, they shouted slogans against the BJP. The BJP high command chose Ravi Patil, a Panchamasali Lingayat leader, to replace Benake, a Maratha.
“Denying a ticket to Mr Benake amounts to insulting the Maratha community. We will not keep quiet. We will make sure that the BJP suffers a defeat in all the 18 constituencies in the district,’’ threatened Ankush Aurwadkar, a booth pramukh of the BJP. Some agitated BJP workers sat on a dharna outside the house of Mangala Angadi, a Member of Parliament and shouted slogans against the BJP. They demanded an answer from her about the choice of Ravi Patil instead of Anil Benake. She reasoned that the choice of candidates was made by the party high command based on its ideology and some internal rules set up by the party election committee. She indirectly hinted that Anil Benake was punished for not supporting BJP’s call for the excavation of the mosque and for standing up for the Muslim traders.
The Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti (MES), has chosen advocate Amar Yallurkar from Belagavi North. In 2018, Anil Benake of the Bharatiya Janata Party won the seat by defeating the seasoned legislator Fairoz Nuruddin Sait of the Indian National Congress with a margin of 17, 267 votes. Congress has fielded Asif Sait this time. Shivanand Mugalihal is trying his luck from JD (S). Majlis is also in the fray from Belagavi North. Majlis chief Asaduddin Owaisi addressed a public meeting in Belagavi North in favour of his candidate Lateefkhan Amirkhan Pathan.
There are 65, 655 Muslim voters (28%) in Belagavi North. There are more than 30,000 SC and ST voters put together. The infighting among the Hindutva brigade – mainly between the Marathas can throw up a surprising result not to the liking of the BJP. Amit Shah is polarizing the election here too by saying that reservations will not be provided to Muslims if BJP comes to power in Karnataka. He has no issues of development to talk about to the voters. Only if Asif Sait (Congress) and Lateef khan (Majlis) divide considerable votes between them, extremist Hindutva candidate may prevail here.
Majlis also fielded another candidate Durgappa Kashappa from Dharwad (East) apart from Belagavi North seat. It is supporting one independent Sushil Kumar in the Jamkhandi seat in Bagalkot. Asaduddin Owaisi claimed that 150 Muslim youth in jail under UAPA in Hubli, who are designated as anti-social elements. He said 90 % of the youth are innocent. He advised Congress that if Congress does not feel the youth are innocent, the party should not enter Hubli. He asked how can Congress give a certificate of secularism to Jagadish Shettar, who spent all his life in the RSS and he was the founder of BJP in Karnataka? He questioned Sonia Gandhi as to how she can campaign for the RSS man Jagadish Shettar? Asaduddin Owaisi paid his respects at the Dargah of Hadhrat Syed Muhammed Shah Quadri Baghdadi in Hubli.
The alleged ’40 percent commission’ BJP Government appears to be on its last legs. Undeterred by the communal, provocative, hate campaign heavily peppered with lies of the BJP, Congress has unleashed all its power – Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi, Mallikarjun Kharge, Siddaramaiah, DK Shiva Kumar, and Sonia to uproot the government of loot and kick out the BJP. How far the Congress succeeds will be known on 13th May when the votes are counted. It appears the BJP is on course to a resounding humiliating defeat. For now, the BJP has Bajrang Bali but there will be Khalbali (turmoil) in the BJP’s camp when the results are out!