The latest result of the supposed bellwether seat of Shirahatti in the Gadag district of Bombay-Karnataka seems to have lived up to the expectations surrounding the constituency. Locals, political pundits and the media have held a longstanding belief that the party which wins the seat ultimately ends up winning the state.
The BJP’s Ramappa Sobeppa Lamani won the seat over the Congress’ Doddamani Ramakrishna Shidlingappa by a margin of over 29,000 votes. Speculation was rife over who would end up forming the next government in Karnataka. However, with BS Yeddyurappa officially taking oath as the new Chief Minister, it seems as though the Shirahatti legacy lives on at least for now.
In 2013, during the Congress’ victory in Karnataka, Doddamani won the seat over Ramappa by a margin of 315 votes, while the latter bagged the seat in 2008 during the BJP’s first victory in Karnataka.
Historically, since 1972, the winning candidate in the constituency has been a part of the ruling party. The seat was retained by the Congress party till 1983, when the first non-Congress Government, led by Chief Minister Ramakrishna Hegde, was set up. That year, Congress MLA UG Fakeerappa contested as an Independent and extended support to the minority government led by Hegde.
In 1985, a Janata Party candidate won the seat and the party formed the government, during which Hegde took oath as Chief Minister for the second time. 4 years later, in 1989, the Congress party wrested the seat and power back in Karnataka. During Karnataka’s first coalition government in 2004 between the Congress and the JD(S), the legislator who won from Shirahatti was from the Congress. The coalition went on to last for 20 months.
The trend, however, hasn’t been replicated in the Lok Sabha elections. While the seat, which falls under the Haveri constituency in the general elections, voted in favour of the BJP in 2014, the preceding election in 2009 saw the seat go in favour of the BJP despite the Congress retaining power nationally. Apart from its political uniqueness, Shirahatti also stands out for the Shri Jagadguru Fakireshwar Math, a religious centre in the area, frequented by both Hindus and Muslims.