Bengaluru, Apr 15 : The Chikkodi Lok Sabha seat, the sugar bowl of Karnataka bordering Maharashtra, is once again witnessing a fierce electoral battle between the two traditional rivals-- Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party.
While the Congress candidate Prakash Hukkeri, who had narrowly pipped the BJP candidate, Ramesh Katti, in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, by a slender margin of only 3007 votes, is sweating it out to retain the seat, the BJP candidate is leaving no stone unturned to wrest the seat from the grand-old party.
Hukkeri was the only Cabinet minister, the Congress had successfully fielded in the 2014 elections who succeeded in a photo-finish fight. The BJP, which is yet to recover from its electoral loss, despite a strong Modi wave in the last elections had fielded Annasaheb Jolle, a well known name in the Co-operative sector in Belagavi district and also one of the prominent industrialists in the region.
The Chikkodi Lok Sabha seat dotted with several sugar factories, both in the private as well as in the co-operative sector, benefitted by the irrigation facilities, drawing water from the Krishna river, in the agrarian district. While both- the Congress and the BJP candidates- are facing the internal discontent, the Congress’ Hukkeri exudes confidence to sail through in the April 23 elections, as he never missed an opportunity to remain in his constituency and attend the people's grievances.
The BJP candidate is facing the ire of Ramesh Katti, a former MP, who had failed to earn ticket, while the rebel Congress leader Ramesh Jarakiholi is likely to spoil the party of the Congress candidate. Jarakiholi, who was sacked from the Cabinet recently, is not actively involved in the campaign for the Congress candidate. Hukkeri, who had chosen to fight the Lok Sabha elections, in 2014 despite being a Cabinet minister, was so popular that the Assembly seat he had vacated, was won by his son, Ganesh Hukkeri, in the bypolls, by a huge margin.
The BJP candidate, Annasaheb Jolle, a popular name in the co-operative circle in the district, is an industrialist and runs several industries, especially sugar, power and other areas, and his family also runs a co-operative bank, which has branches in almost every villages in Belagavi district. Jolle,’s wife Shashikala Jolle also a member of the Karnataka Assembly and elected form the district, is also working hard for the success of her husband.
In the eight Assembly segments, both the Congress and the BJP have equal number of MLAs, with four seats each, and the Marathi speaking people living in Nippani and Athani taluks are likely to play a deciding factor in the Lok Sabha elections. Even though, Hukkeri is the Congress and the JD(S) alliance candidate, hardly there exists any JD(S) base in the constituency. “With the battle seeming to be a close one, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s wave should come to the rescue of the BJP candidate, and the Congress candidate, Hukkeri, also a veteran co-operative man, is banking on his works and easy access to the people”, Gangadhar Hiremath, a resident of Kagawada Assembly segment, said.
While both the candidates belong to the dominant Lingayath community, the significant presence of the Kuruba, Muslim, Jains, SC and ST is also likely to play its role in tilting the balance. For the Chikkodi seat, which goes to poll on April 23, in the second phase poll in Karnataka, is being contested by as many as 11 candidates, including BJP and the JD(S) candidates. (UNI)