BELAGAVI: The desperate attempts made by BJP to elevate Laxman Savadi to the Deputy Chief Minister (DCM) 's post in Karnataka hoping to capitalise on his strong links with voters in 18 assembly segments of Sangli and Kolhapur districts in west-Maharashtra, failed miserably as the saffron party managed to win only two of the 18 seats.
Savadi campaigned for more than three weeks prior to the Maharashtra assembly elections. Assuming that Savadi played a crucial role in the victory of BJP candidates in most of these 18 seats in the last assembly elections, BJP high command not only named him as party in-charge this time for the same seats but also named him as DCM. This was despite his loss in the last assembly election from Athani constituency.
In neighbouring Kolhapur district where Savadi spearheaded party's campaign, the BJP did not even win a single seat. With an eye on lakhs of Kannada voters, most of them Lingayats, BJP got Savadi to lead its campaign in Sangli and Kolhapur districts, which falls on Belagavi's border. The saffron party made Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa join Savadi in the campaign in both the districts to woo Lingayat voters on October 16 and 17 when the campaign was at its fag end.
In its efforts to gain more seats in west-Maharashtra, BJP did not allow Savadi to focus on his Athani constituency which was reeling under severe drought previously and later suffered due to floods, causing lakhs of people to be evacuated from their inundated villages. They kept him busy with the election campaign.
Several Congress leaders including former MLAs Mohan Shah and Shahjahan Dongargaon from Athani had questioned Savadi's involvement in Maharashtra election campaign at a time when floods had caused losses worth thousands of crores.
At Jatt assembly segment in Kolhapur which falls merely a few km away from Athani, Savadi and Yediyurappa held a massive campaign on October 16 to woo the large number of Kannada voters. In the end, sitting MLA of Jatt Vilasrao Jagtap of BJP lost to Congress party's Vikram Sawant.
For almost two to three weeks prior to October 21 Maharashtra election, Savadi did not even spend few hours for the flood-affected people who were languishing in hundreds of centres across the flood-ravaged North Karnataka. ``The decision of BJP to name Savadi to lead the campaign in Kolhapur and Sangali was a foolish step. Savadi was not able to win the assembly election himself. How could his party expect him to ensure the victory of other candidates, and that too in another state,'' says former MLA Mohan Shah from Athani.
Shah called BJP's logic of making Lingayat leaders like Savadi and Yediyurappa campaign to woo Lingayat voters of Maharashtra, absurd. He said voters in assembly elections would want the political parties to face elections on local and regional issues which mattered. ``Somehow, Savadi and his team managed to gain plum positions in BJP by misleading the party bosses. But you can't fool people all the time by playing Lingayat or other cards in the elections,'' he added.
Eight-time MLA Umesh Katti who was upset when Savadi was named as DCM says, it was only because the Centre and Maharashtra failed to face the flood situation in Sangli and Kolhapur effectively that BJP performed badly in the election. He did not openly say that BJP's decision to involve Savadi in the election led to its poor show but said, the Centre and Maharashtra government should have responded to lakhs of people affected by floods recently in both the districts, on time.
Savadi had kept his phone switched off and was not available for comments on the poor show of his party in the two districts.
It may be noted that the BJP had neglected political heavyweights in the party like Umesh Katti, Balachandra Jarkiholi, Abhay Patil and several others in North Karnataka region but went on to name Savadi who had lost the assembly election as DCM. In the backdrop of Savadi's failure to win the expected number of seats, some of the disgruntled party leaders may exert pressure on the party leadership for his removal.
In Sangli district (eight seats), Congress/NCP won five seats, BJP two and Shivasena one while in Kolhapur district (10 seats), Congress won four seats, NCP two, Shivasena one and others three seats.