As Anantkumar Hegde misses the bus, ex-Speaker to take on former MLA in Uttara Kannada

While the BJP aims to reestablish itself in the constituency after Hegde’s exit, the Congress wants to recapture the segment after decades.
 Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri
Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri

UTTARA KANNADA: The BJP bastion of Uttara Kannada will see a new Member of Parliament in 20 years after incumbent MP Anantkumar Hegde was denied a ticket. Hedge, a six-time MP from Uttara Kannada, has won the seat consecutively since 2004. Earlier, he had won in 1996 and 1998.

Fast-forward to 2024, and the contest in Uttara Kannada is between former Assembly Speaker Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri (BJP) and former Khanapur MLA Dr Anjali Nimbalkar (Congress).

While the BJP aims to reestablish itself in the constituency after Hegde’s exit, the Congress wants to recapture the segment after decades.

Kageri, a six-time MLA, lost the 2023 elections in Sirsi. So, the 2024 polls are vital for the seasoned politician who has to literally begin his political career from scratch. The story is the same for Dr Anjali, too, after she lost the 2023 Assembly polls from Khanapur.

Kageri, who had won Assembly elections six times (thrice representing Ankola from 1994–1999, 1999–2004, and 2004–2008, and three times from Sirsi Siddapur from 2008–2013, 2013–2018, and 2018–2023), is a well-known political leader in the district. For Dr Anjali, the constituency is relatively new, except for Khanapur, where she won the 2018 Assembly polls.

Kageri was the primary education minister in the Yediyurappa cabinet in 2008 and continued till 2013 under Sadananda Gowda and Jagadish Shettar.

The district is considered a Hindutva stronghold, as Anantkumar Hegde, with his strong RSS backing, has represented this constituency for 27 years. Hegde, a firebrand Hindutva leader, had won the 2019 Lok Sabha polls by a margin of 4,79,649 votes against Anand Asnotikar of the JDS.

However, before him, Congress leaders like Devraya Naik and Margaret Alva represented Uttara Kannada in the Lok Sabha. Also, Joachim Alva, the father-in-law of Margaret Alva, won from Uttara Kannada in the 1952, 1957, and 1962 Lok Sabha elections. The Congress now aims to regain its lost glory.

A Havyaka Brahmin, Kageri enjoys the support of his community. The district has several backward communities, SCs, and STs.

Brahmins and Lingayats are spread across the district, with the former found in large numbers in Sirsi, Siddapur, and Yellapur taluks. The silence of Yellapur BJP MLA Shivaram Hebbar and his son’s closeness to the Congress compounded with Hegde allegedly sulking after not getting a ticket makes the fight a tough one for Kageri.

The constituency has six Assembly segments in Uttara Kannada district (Haliyal, Karwar, Kumta, Bhatkal, Sirsi, and Yellapur) and two from negighbouring Belagavi district (Khanapur and Kittur). While the BJP won from three Assembly constituencies, the Congress won from five.

Dr Anjali hopes to emerge victorious as the constituency has a sizable population of Marathas, the community that she belongs to, and has a good number of Minorities, Dalits and Backward Communities.

She also hopes that the guarantees of the Congress State Government will help her defeat the BJP.

Issues like the lack of a super-specialty hospital in the district, dissatisfaction over the denial of ST tag for Kunabis and Halakki Vokkaligas, compensation awarded for Project Sea Bird and Kaiga Nuclear Power Plant, and land acquisition issues for the construction of a green field airport near Karwar will have both political parties on their toes.

With no industries in the district barring a few Union Government projects, the people in the district hope that the new MP will promote the tourism sector in the constituency, which has great potential.

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