In Basavakalyan bypoll, BJP’s Sharanu Salagar wins despite revolt

The choice of Sharanu Salagar, a Kalaburagi-based Lingayat leader, as BJP candidate in Basavakalyan had disappointed as many as 16 local aspirants. But despite the odds, he has managed an emphatic victory against his nearest rival, Mala B. Narayanarao of the Congress, with a margin of 20,629 votes. The byelection was necessitated by the death of her husband, but the sympathy factor does not appear to have worked for the Congress candidate.

Mallikarjun Khuba, a former MLA and the strongest frontline contender for the BJP ticket, had contested the bypoll as an Independent candidate and called Mr. Salagar an “outsider”. But this too did not prove a deterrent. Senior BJP Ministers V. Somanna and Laxman Savadi, who did not manage to persuade Mr. Khuba to withdraw from the fray, did succeed in weaning away a chunk of his supporters back to the party fold to support Mr. Salagar. Mr. Khuba was pushed to fourth place with 9,457 votes.

The solid support of Lingayats is seen as a major reason for Mr. Salagar’s victory. Laying the foundation stone for the new Anubhava Mantapa, a ₹600-crore project, and the formation of the Karnataka Veerashaiva Lingayat Development Board with a budgetary allocation of ₹500 crore contributed to the mobilisation of community votes for Mr. Salagar.

Also in the fray was Syed Yasrab Ali Quadri of the JD(S), polling 11,402 votes. This was the only constituency where the JD(S) fielded a candidate, and it is believed this took away minority votes from the Congress.

Apart from Muslims, the Congress had also focussed on the Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe, and backward communities. Ms. Narayanarao hails from the Koli community and former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s campaign had helped the Congress mobilise the Kuruba community votes for her. However, it did not have the desired impact.

The Maratha votes appear to have been split between the Congress and BJP. The formation of a Maratha Development Corporation by the BJP government played its role here. The former MLA and Maratha leader M.G. Mule, who had filed nomination papers as Nationalist Congress Party candidate, withdrawing his candidature too avoided a further split in votes and helped the BJP. The deployment of P.G.R. Sindhia, a Maratha leader, in Basavakalyan by the Congress appears to have hardly helped Ms. Narayanarao in mobilising community votes.

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