BELAGAVI: The largest producer of sugarcane in the state, Kagwad assembly segment, is geared up for an interesting political clash, as traditional political rivals — Shrimant Patil and Raju Kage — are going up against each other in the December 5 bypolls. After Operation Lotus, Kage moved to the Congress despite winning the last four assembly elections in a row, as the BJP decided to field disqualified MLA Shrimant Patil, who was earlier with the Congress.
Now, the burning question is whom the voters will elect, as the people are upset that they were neglected during the floods, which affected thousands of lives in the constituency.
After losing his maiden assembly election from Kagwad in 1999 against P A Patil of the Congress, Kage went on a winning spree, riding on his popularity across the constituency. He won the first election on a Janata Dal (United) ticket, and the next three from BJP. Kage’s old nemesis, Patil, who contested on a Congress ticket, defeated him in the 2019 election.
Sugar baron Patil owns a factory, and is popular for contributing immensely to the field of agriculture in the region. However, even though Kage and Patil are favourites, JDS candidate Shrishail Tugashetty is expected to grab a good share of votes.
Soon after the BJP sidelined Kage to field Patil, Congress grabbed the chance to rope in Kage, who apart from having Congress votes, also has a substantial number of voters who rallied behind him in the last few elections.
However, Patil’s image has suffered a blow ever since he defected to the BJP. His absence from Kagwad to join the rebels in Mumbai in August, during the floods, may affect his prospects. His mentor, Ramesh Jarkiholi and several BJP leaders have rallied behind him while campaigning in an attempt to rebuild his image.
Independent Vivek Shetty, who was assaulted by relatives of Kage a few years ago in Kagwad, is also in the fray. Shetty and Tugashetty may split considerable votes of the Congress and BJP, but this may not have much of an impact.
The Lingayat community has strong vote bank in this constituency, followed by Jains, Kurubas, Marathas, Muslims and Dalits. Since Kage is a Lingayat, it may help him get those votes. Patil, on the other hand, is a Maratha. However, the Lingayats, who have seen terms of both Kage and Patil, are expected to carefully choose decide between the two.