The BJP’s Mangala Angadi on Sunday won by a slender margin of 5,240 votes against Satish Jarkiholi of the Congress in Belagavi Lok Sabha constituency. This was in stark contrast to the late Suresh Angadi’s victory margin of 3.91 lakh votes two years ago.
Political observers say multiple factors contributed to the close fight, first among them being the “Jarkiholi factor”. Mr. Satish Jarkiholi, the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee vice-president who has publicly shared his dream of “becoming the Chief Minister of Karnataka one day”, went out in full force. This was unlike the mild contenders that Suresh Angadi had to face in the past, including political greenhorn V.S. Sadhunavar, KLE director, in 2019.
Mr. Satish Jarkiholi, during the campaign, kept referring to the “Jarkiholi family vote”. That seems to have remained intact, say observers. His supporters say he had turned it into a “personal fight”. Another reason is the near absence of Ramesh Jarkiholi, his brother and BJP leader, following his involvement in the CD scandal. And the reduced enthusiasm of another brother, Balachandra Jarkiholi, also with the BJP, in the campaign was obvious.
However, Mr. Ramesh Jarkiholi’s influence seems to have worked even in his absence, as the BJP got the highest lead of over 34,000 in Gokak. In fact, Gokak and Belagavi South are the only two constituencies where the BJP got a lead. The Congress led in the other six constituencies, including Arabavi that Mr. Balachandra Jarkiholi represents.
The MES factor
The BJP’s vote share was significantly reduced by the Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti (MES) entering the fray. Shubham Shelke, the MES candidate, got over 1.2 lakh votes. The 26-year-old Maratha leader had got only 670 votes in 2019. His wings were strengthened by the Shiv Sena joining his campaign. Sanjay Raut, Shiv Sena leader, flew down from Mumbai and held a roadshow and a rally in support of Mr. Shelke. He said the Shiv Sena was not fielding a candidate as it wanted to support the MES in Belagavi.
The MES got significant votes in Belagavi Rural, Belagavi South, and Belagavi North.
It seemed as though the BJP was not confident from the start. When it nominated Ms. Mangala, it remained oblivious to its ideological opposition to dynasty politics and broke its rule of not nominating family members of deceased leaders in their place. The BJP’s nominee was announced a day after Mr. Satish Jarkiholi was named the Congress candidate. Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa visited Belagavi three times and spent a total of seven days there. On the eve of polling, he spoke at a rally and took out two roadshows even though he was suffering from high fever.
Some Congress leaders say the AHINDA factor also contributed to the fight. “Ms. Mangala Angadi was the lone Lingayat candidate and Mr. Satish Jarkiholi was the prominent non-Lingayat leader in the fray. It is possible that the SC/ST, OBC and minority votes tilted towards the Congress,” said another leader.