It’s battle of political veteran vs greenhorn in Dharwad constituency in Karnataka

The two candidates from the national parties are being challenged by Dingaleshwar Swami of Shirahatti Bhavaikya Peetha.
(L-R) Youth Congress leader Vinod Asuti, Union Minister Pralhad Josh.
(L-R) Youth Congress leader Vinod Asuti, Union Minister Pralhad Josh. Facebook, EPS

HUBBALLI: The contest in the Dharwad parliamentary constituency this time is between an experienced politician and a political greenhorn. While BJP has held this seat since 1996, winning seven times in a row and wants to retain it, Congress is employing every possible tactic to wrest it from the saffron party. The battle has turned three-cornered with a noted Lingayat seer joining the fray.

BJP has reposed its confidence in Union Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Coal and Mines Pralhad Joshi, asking him to contest for the fifth time. On the other hand, the grand old party is betting on Youth Congress leader Vinod Asuti, despite his debacle in the 2018 Assembly election. The two candidates from the national parties are being challenged by Dingaleshwar Swami of Shirahatti Bhavaikya Peetha.

Of the eight Assembly segments in the constituency, the GOP holds Hubballi-Dharwad East, Dharwad, Navalgund and Kalaghatagi, while BJP has won Hubballi-Dharwad West, Central, Kundgol and Shiggaon of Haveri district. But Congress is deprived of using the services of Dharwad MLA Vinay Kulkarni, who is barred from entering the district for his alleged involvement in the murder of BJP worker Yogishgouda Goudar.

The caste/religion composition of the constituency is quite in contrast to the candidates fielded by the national parties. Though Lingayats and Muslims have a major share of votes, Joshi is a Brahmin, while Asuti is from the Kuruba (OBC) community. The caste equation could work only in favour of independent candidate Dingaleshwar Swami, who heads the Lingayat mutt.

Joshi, who has represented the constituency since 2004, claims to have implemented a slew of development works across the constituency. All along the campaign, Joshi has been emphasising on the track record of the NDA government in fulfilling promises. Because of his performance, unblemished image and popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he is confident of sailing through.

Congress candidate Asuti, however, is relying heavily on the five guarantees implemented by the state government and the support of AHINDA group, which has unequivocally backed Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. The Shirahatti pontiff, meanwhile, has made Joshi’s betrayal of Lingayat leaders and community as his main poll plank.

The major issues in Dharwad are lack of basic amenities, particularly in rural parts, poor urban infrastructure, unemployment due to poor industrialisation and many more. But important among them is the non-implementation of the project linking Kalasa-Banduri streams with the Malaprabha river. Both the national parties are blamed for not executing the project, but Joshi is being targeted for not getting the Central government clearance despite being in the Modi cabinet.

Every summer, villages and towns here face the drinking water problem. Of course, the Jal Jeevan Mission is being implemented to address the issue, but the problem cannot be resolved unless the river-linking project is executed to increase storage at Malaprabha Dam. It is now left to the voters to decide on May 7.

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