The Karnataka Congress confirmed that its current MLA Satish Jarkiholi will contest the bye-election from the Belagavi Lok Sabha constituency. The decision was ratified in a statement issued by the party on Friday morning. Satish Jarkiholi is currently the MLA of Yamkanmardi constituency.
"The Congress President Smt. Sonia Gandhi has approved the candidature of Satish Jarkiholi as party candidate to contest the bye-election to the Lok Sabha from Belagavi parliamentary constituency of Karnataka," read a statement issued by Congress National General Secretary Mukul Wasnik on Friday.
According to reports, Satish was initially hesitant to contest the bye-elections from Belagavi. His supporters held a protest rally in Yamkanmardi Assembly constituency on Tuesday opposing the Congress party's move to field him. His supporters said that this was a planned move to dislodge him from state politics and send him to the Lok Sabha.
"But now, Satish has called his supporters and party workers in Yamkanmardi for a meeting today (Friday) and he will convince them to set aside the grievances and fight the bye-elections. There is no doubt in his mind now and he wants to make a point that the recent controversies related to his brother will not affect his family or his electoral chances," a source close to Satish Jarkiholi told TNM.
Satish, who is from the Nayaka/Valmiki community, is part of the influential Jarkiholi family from Belagavi. The five Jarkiholi brothers grew from being sugar barons to being influential politicians. Gokak MLA Ramesh Jarkiholi is the eldest son followed by Yemkanmardi MLA Satish, Arabhavi MLA Balachandra and Bhimshi and Lakhan.
The five brothers are often political rivals. Satish and Lakhan are currently with the Congress while Ramesh, Balachandra and Bhimshi are with the BJP. They often try to ensure that at least one of the brothers is part of the ruling government.
But for the first time in the last two decades, none of them is a minister in the ruling government. This was after Ramesh, who was the Water Resources Minister, was forced to resign earlier this month in the backdrop of the 'sex for favours' scandal. Videos of him with a woman and promising a government job in exchange for sexual acts were leaked to the news channels in the state leading to the minister's resignation.
This adds intrigue to the upcoming bye-election since Congress leaders have repeatedly protested in the Karnataka Assembly calling for a court-monitored probe into the allegations against Ramesh Jarkiholi. This has made Satish's decision to contest in Belagavi on a Congress ticket all the more surprising.
The Jarkiholis enjoy political clout, particularly in Gokak, Arabhavi and Yemkanmardi areas in the district, where the brothers are currently MLAs. This is also the areas where there is a sizable Dalit population. Alongside the Jarkiholis, the Katti brothers - Ramesh and Umesh, also sugar barons, are influential in Hukkeri and Chikkodi and are with the BJP.
The bye-elections were necessitated following the death of former Union Minister Suresh Angadi, who contracted the novel coronavirus in September 2020.
The BJP has picked Mangala Angadi, Suresh's wife as its candidate in the constituency. While other names like Ramesh Katti, District Central Cooperative bank chairman and younger brother of Umesh Katti, Food and Civil Supplies Minister, were discussed, the party leaders decided to field a representative from Suresh Angadi's family.
The decision to be made was between the widow Mangala Angadi and daughter Shraddha whose father-in-law is the current industries minister Jagadish Shettar. Shraddha's presence at a local political event in Belagavi in December 2020 had sparked speculation that she was being considered as a candidate for the bye-election but eventually, the party decided to field Mangala Angadi instead.
Mangala is the widow of Suresh Angadi and is from the Lingayat community, which has a sizable presence in Belagavi. By fielding Satish, the Congress may find it difficult to lure voters from the Lingayat and Maratha community away from the BJP.
Mahadeva Prakash, a political analyst, said that the Congress is taking a gamble on the non-Lingayat voter base in the constituency. "The MP of the Chikkodi constituency neighboring the Belagavi constituency is a Lingayat so the Congress seems to be experimenting by fielding a non-Lingayat candidate in Belagavi...The Congress is thinking that a polarisation of non-Lingayat votes will work in its favour by gaining a significant number of votes from Kurubas, OBCs, Dalits, Valmikis, Muslims," Mahadeva Prakash said.
He added that the BJP is banking on the Lingayat and Maratha votebank but even though there are many factors working in favour of the BJP, the worry for the party is that Ramesh Jarkiholi and Balachandra Jarkiholi may refrain from campaigning against their brother.
The Panchamshali (sub-sect of Lingayat) community's agitation demanding that their existing reservation category be changed from 3B to 2A category could also affect the election. "There is also resistance against the Jarkiholi family in Belagavi and this will be a tough contest to win from this constituency," Mahadeva Prakash said.
With inputs from Soumya Chatterjee