Karnataka’s ‘Varchas’ politicians: 22 heavyweights who cannot be defeated easily

It doesn’t matter which party some of them are from. They are the evergreen local leaders who tower over every other contestant, and the parties need them.
Karnataka’s ‘Varchas’ politicians: 22 heavyweights who cannot be defeated easily
Karnataka’s ‘Varchas’ politicians: 22 heavyweights who cannot be defeated easily
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They are the tried and tested winners of Karnataka. Beyond the everyday political dynamics of the state, they have remained larger-than-life figures in their respective constituencies. Many of them don’t rest on the strength of big political parties, rather it is the parties which need them.

Their leadership, personality and legacy has given them an upper-hand in the political game. The locals simply call this 'Varchas' - domination of the leaders. Here are 22 of these leaders from Karnataka who cannot be defeated easily. 

Umesh Vishwanath Katti

The Kukkeri MLA has been a legislator since 1985. So far, he has contested in eight elections and won seven of them. Constituents have remained loyal to this 58-year-old leader despite his party-hopping: He won from a Janatha Party ticket in 1985, contested as a Janatha Dal Secular candidate in 1989, 1994 and 2008, jumped to the Janatha Dal United in 1999 and finally to the BJP in 2013. Katti faced defeat just once - when he was a Congress candidate in 2004. He lost by a margin of 820 votes to BJP candidate Shashikant Nayika.

Why he wins: No-nonsense personality, key-player in the employment-generating sugar sector in the region, Lingayat support, and voicing local aspirations irrespective of his own party ideologies.

Bharamgoud Alagoud Kage

He has been the MLA from Kagwad constituency since 2000. The leader first entered the assembly as a JDU candidate in 2000 bye-poll. In 2004, he was fielded by the BJP as their candidate and has since won all subsequent polls. In 2017, Kage grabbed headlines after he, along with the members of his family, allegedly attacked a Congress party worker over a social media post. 

Why he wins: Has local goodwill and deep pockets and is a key player in the sugar industry.

S Angara

If anti-incumbency does not act as a spoiler, this will be his sixth straight victory from the reserved constituency of Sullia, despite media criticism of poor development under his rule.

In the 2013 polls, this was the only surviving seat for the BJP off the seven constituencies of Dakshina Kannada. Angara clung to his seat with a thin margin of just 1,373 votes against Congress candidate B. Raghu.

Why he wins: Weak opposition, rise of Hindutva politics in the region. 

K Abhayachandra

A former minister of fisheries, the Congressman from Moodabidri is contesting polls for the fifth time. With the legacy of never having voted BJP to power, this constituency in Dakshina Kannada, has repeatedly elected Abhayachandra, where he has been serving for the last 20 years. 

Why he wins: Hailing from the Jain community, the legislator has the backing of the community leaders who are in substantial number in the region.

UT Khader

His father UT Fareed won the Mangaluru constituency seat four times - 1972, 1978, 1999 and 2004. After his death, UT Khader took over the mantle in 2007. Subsequently, the Jr. Khader won 2007 bye-polls, and the 2008 and 2013 polls from the same constituency. He was also given a ministry. 

Why he wins: Khader candidly admits that the legacy of his father’s social service has led to people's faith in him. Besides, Khader is known to be accessible and is widely considered responsible for reducing the communal divide in the region.

Tanveer Sait

Yet another father-to-son constituency, Narsimharaja has been represented by Congressman Tanveer Sait since the 2002 bye-poll. His father Aziz Sait had served as the MLA for the same constituency for over three decades between 1967 and 1999, except once in 1994 when he lost to E. Maruti Rao Pawar of the BJP.

Following the death of his father, Tanveer Sait sought re-election and the family continued to hold the seat. Opposition parties like the JDS and SDPI have repeatedly tried to defeat Tanveer, but in vain.

Why he wins: Goodwill of the people towards the Sait family plays a major role, his family is also considered to be reformist. 

Dinesh Gundu Rao

Born in Kushal Nagar, Dinesh Gundu Rao is the second son of a former Chief Minister of Karnataka, R. Gundu Rao. He was recently appointed as the working president of Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee. Rao will contest for the fifth time from Gandhi Nagar constituency, which he has won consistently since 1999.

Why he wins: Late CM Gundu Rao's legacy, favoured by old-time Congressmen and predominant Congress support base in the constituency.

Jagdish Shettar 

The former interim CM, Shettar will be seeking election to the seat of Hubballi-Dharwad Central assembly for the sixth time. The leader who came into the mainstream political foray after Babri Masjid demolition has been a crucial player in the party. He was appointed as the state BJP President in 2005, was the Speaker of Karnataka legislature in 2008-2009 and has served as a Leader of Opposition.

Why he wins: Lingayat leader with a strong support base, corruption-free image and who is soft-spoken.

B Ramanatha Rai

The Congressman from Bantwal has been the face of the party in the region since he contested in 1985. Rai has a formidable base and is contesting for the seventh time. He faced defeat only once, in 2004, by then BJP candidate Nagaraj Shetty. In the 2013 polls, he won with a comfortable margin of over 17,000 votes.

Why he wins: Has a stronghold over the constituency, known to maintain religious solidarity, played a role in substantial development in the region and locally well-respected even by opponents.

Dr. Malakareddy

A legend in Yadgir, he kept the Congress on tenterhooks by not committing to align with the party until recently. He was said to have been miffed with not getting a cabinet berth. But finally, he did agree, and the octogenarian’s decision also ended the lobbying for tickets among the other wannabe Congress candidates.

This will be his seventh contest. While he lost in 1985 and 2004, he won in 1989, 1994, 1999, 2008 and 2013.

Why he wins: Strong support from Lingayat, Reddy community leaders.

BS Yeddyurappa

When he wins, it will be his eight stint as a legislator. He is the CM face of the BJP, and he has won every election from his home base of Shikaripura except the one in 1983. Known for raising the party base in the state from scratch, BSY has become an inalienable chapter for BJP in Karnataka. The party faced an embarrassing defeat when it decided to go to polls with BSY in 2013.

Why he wins: The constituency has a large base of the Lingayat voters and despite various allegations levelled against him, voters in the constituency seem to be unaffected. He has developed a strong booth level cadre base.

KS Eshwarappa

A BJP strongman from the Kuruba community, he has been elected from Shimoga four times. In spite of Shimoga having considerable voters from Brahmin and Lingayat communities, he has always taken centre stage, be it the KJP or Sangolli Rayanna Brigade. 

Why he wins: Has the support of Kurubas, backed by Yeddyurappa, Lingayat leaders in the area have subsequently extended their support to him.

RV Deshpande

Congress leader RV Deshpande will contest the Haliyal constituency for the eighth time this year. The leader, who entered politics with the Janatha Party in 1983, moved to JDS in 1989 and eventually joined Congress in 1999. However, the former industries minister and incumbent education minister is facing criticism for poor development in the region.  

Why he wins: Considered a visionary who pushed for Karnataka's IT hub way-back in 1997, has influence over Congress party. Born into a Brahmin landlord family, so has deep access in the community. 

Halady Srinivas Shetty

Hailed as the 'Vajpayee' of Udupi', Halady Srinivas Shetty was left humiliated in 2012 after the BJP top brass summoned him for a cabinet swearing-in in Bengaluru but changed their mind at the last minute. Dejected, the then three-time MLA of the BJP returned to his constituency and put in his papers.

He contested as an independent in 2013 polls, and won with a margin of 40,611 votes, pushing the BJP to the third place. Shetty has since reconciled with the BJP and will be contesting on a party ticket.

Why he wins: Known for his simplicity and self-discipline, Halady can strike a chord with the rural masses. 

DB Inamdar

He has contested from the Kittur constituency eight times and lost only twice. The Congress has however not yet announced him as the party candidate. 

He stood on a Janatha Party ticket twice in 1983 and 1984, on behalf of Janata Dal in 1989 and later under Congress ticket. Though the 70-year-old leader lost in 2003 and 2008 against BJP’s Suresh Marihal, he came back to power in 2013.

Why he wins: Traditional Congress vote bank, developmental work and Lingayat support.

HC Balakrishna

Magadi is yet another father-to-son constituency and the former JDS MLA HC Balakrishna, like his father HG Channappa, does not mind changing party affiliation. While Channappa has been with the Congress, Janatha Party and BJP, his son and incumbent four-time MLA Balakrishna has had stints with BJP and JDS legislator, and will now contest on a Congress ticket. 

Why he wins: Balakrishna continues to have a firm hold in local politics, he is highly accessible, has good leadership skills and is good manager. He has the support of the Vokkaliga community. 

Dr. HC Mahadevappa

Of the seven times the incumbent PWD minister Dr. H C Mahadevappa has contested from T Narasipura, he has won five times despite being a native of neighbouring Nanjangud taluk. Despite the best efforts by the leader to change his constituency to CV Raman Nagar and to make passage for the entry of his son at T Narasipura, the party declined the proposal and has asked him to stand guard on his current turf.

Why he wins: Traditional Congress vote-bank support, close confidant of CM Siddaramiah and has strong grass-root level connection with the cadre. 

Malikayya Venkayya Guttedar 

The six-time legislator from Afzalpur will contest on a BJP ticket in 2018. Since his first election contest in 1985, the leader has always chosen the winning side including Congress, Karnataka Congress Party, Janatha Dal Secular and now BJP. Apparently, he was unhappy with the Congress for denying him a ministerial berth, so he has jumped ship. 

Why he wins: Local critics attribute it to muscle power and deep pockets owing to his flourishing export business.

K Vasantha Bangera

The five-time MLA from Belthangady has seen his political aspirations fulfilled in BJP, Congress and JDS. While in 1983 and 1985, he represented BJP, in 1994, he fought the polls on a JDS ticket and won. In 2013, Bangera contested the poll as an INC candidate. He will continue his stint with the same party at the upcoming polls, where he will be contesting for the seventh time. 

Why he wins: He is charismatic and popular amidst his constituents.

The Jarkiholi Brothers

The Jarkiholi brothers Satish (INC), Ramesh (INC) and Balachandra (BJP) will contest from Yemkanmardi, Gokak and Arabhavi respectively. While Satish and Ramesh will be contesting for the fifth time, it will be the fifth attempt for Balachandran.

Why they win: The brothers hail from a politically dominant family, which wields considerable influence in Belgaum district. While Satish and Ramesh will be contesting for the fifth time, it will be the first attempt for Balachandra.

Story by Story Infinity (Subs and Scribes Media Ventures LLP).

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