Karnataka 360

Karnataka assembly elections have entered the last lap. The southern state consists of six regions, and the elections in each region are unique. As part of our special series, News18 reporters traveled to each of the six regions to gauge the pulse of voters and give a 360-degree view of which way the political winds are blowing.

As the car turns into Yellur in Belagavi district, the boards proudly proclaim ‘Shivaji Chowk’. Many of these signs and plates are found outside a handful of homes in the area. A little ahead is the tourist hotspot, Rajansagad. It is an ancient fort that was ruled by many kings like Marathas, Peshwas, and Hoysalas. It was built to ensure protection from attacks from neighboring Goa and Karwar districts.

Today inside the fort there is a newly installed statue of Shivaji. In the region near the Western Ghats, even the installation of a statue of Shivaji is steeped in political influence. This statue was inaugurated by Prime Minister Basavaraj Bommai on March 2 in the presence of BJP leaders. But local Congress MLA Lakshmi Hepalkar has outed him, claiming that she was the mastermind behind the statue. And in order not to be left behind, she “revived” the statue a month later.

“Language please!”

Belagavi, which is the headquarters in North Karnataka, is also called the sugar bowl of the state. The popular sweet here is kunda, but it has become a bitter pill for the BJP as the Marathas who have settled in the area want to be clear about what they can get from Karnataka. The Marathi community has about 75,000 votes in North Bellagra and more than one lakh in South Bellagra.

A few years earlier, the Maharashtrian Ekekaran Samiti had founded in 1946, a small party thriving due to the Maharashtra-Karnataka border dispute, and was influential in and around Pelagavi. At the height of the border dispute, the Ministry of Education and Science won seven of the seven seats here. But over time, when Kannada politicians campaigned against the MES party, the slide of this small party began. Today, it has little say in the political landscape of Pelagavi, which emerged as the basis for the border dispute. As the matter is in the Supreme Court, it is time for elections, these Samiti suddenly become active, fueling the quarrel over borders.

Interestingly, Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Sanjay Raut said that he will be visiting the Marathi speaking areas of Pelagavi to take part in the Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti campaign. He challenged Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to do so too. But it’s a tough road for Vadnavis. While he had scheduled rallies in the area to capitalize on Marathi votes, this could cause problems for him and his party back home in Maharashtra. This is why even parties like the National Congress Party have fielded candidates from this region, just with the aim of stepping up pressure on the Bharatiya Janata Party, which is in power in both Maharashtra and Karnataka.

Adding to the BJP’s woes is that just before the elections, in December, the border dispute broke out. For example, vehicles with Maharashtra number plates were set on fire. In response, some buses with Kannada number plates were attacked in Pune. While Maharashtra was claiming that more than 850 villages should be part of its state (some of these villages are in Karwar and Pelagavi), Karnataka refused to agree. Interestingly, the positives and benefits for Marathi speaking people in Pelagavi have been included in the statements of almost all parties like BJP and Maharashtra National Congress Party. But when Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde announced the extension of benefits to freedom fighters in Marathi-speaking areas of Karnataka, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai responded by announcing scholarships for Kannada schools in Maharashtra.

At Maharashtra High School in Ylor, two teachers told me, “We are Kanadegas but we speak Marathi. Our ancestors are from Maharashtra but we have settled here for more than three generations. We have a grudge. That is, our documents should be accepted in Marathi. Marathi should be the language.” First official.” In the school, there are more than 170 students and the medium of instruction is Marathi language. Kannada is a second language here but few students chose it. The school stands witness to the fact that elections are coming and the local Maratis will want their votes to be decisive.

2023 polls

Does MES recombine? With the border feud resurfaced, Samiti is also trying to get back together, which means she could be the spoiler. Congressmen from this district have won in previous polls with Muslim, Lungiyat and Marathi votes on his side. This time the BJP chose a new non-Marathi candidate. Belagavi North MLA Anil Benake has been replaced by Ravi Patil who is Lingayat. The BJP’s internal input was that Benaki was unpopular.

MES, which wants to play a major role, operates at the expense that it is time to bounce back. Vikas Klghatni, Ministry of Education spokesperson says, “Local issues have helped us. The recent High Court hearings have rekindled the energy of our cadre and we hope we can capitalize on that.” It is no surprise, then, that she has decided to contest six seats in the Bilagavi district. Take a look at its candidate in South Bilajavi, Ramkant Kunduskar, who also heads Shri Ram Sina Hindustan, and that not only means the Marathi vote, but could attract some BJP Hindutva voters too.

The BJP is worried because it is facing some infighting with its change of candidate. BJP district is facing major disadvantage after defection of Lingayat leader Laxman Savadi in Congress. The departure of some Lingayat leaders from the BJP and the attempt to rebound by the Ministry of Education may make the Marathi factor an important factor in the elections in the ‘little Maharashtra’ region.

Over time, the boundary dispute subsided as a scout. But there is a clear attempt to raise this issue again. Facing exits and infighting, the BJP is at a crossroads. She does not want to stick to the border issue for fear of antagonizing the states of Karnataka and Maharashtra that she rules. But if MES becomes aggressive, it may have to revise its plans. This is the reason for sending Devendra Fadnavis, one of the few Maratha leaders who visited the region. Congress feels it is at an advantage. She hopes Shivaji will be her savior.

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