M.B. Patil, former Home Minister and chairman of the Congress committee to scout a candidate for Belagavi Lok Sabha bypolls, held a meeting of his committee in Belagavi recently and declared that the party had douzens of aspirants. But few believed him. Even his followers and long-time Congress workers were skeptical.
Party workers confide that there are fewer seekers of the party ticket, compared to the Bharatiya Janata Party. Sympathy for Suresh C. Angadi, the late Union Minister of State for Railways whose death necessitated the bypoll, and a perceived pro-Modi wave in the district may cripple chances of other party candidates, they say.
Siddaramaiah, Leader of Opposition and KPCC chief D.K. Shivakumar held a meeting with senior members and hopefuls in Bengaluru on December 7 to review the situation.
They discussed various issues like caste matrix, image of candidates, and chances of victory of various candidates.
Congress sources say the KPCC has shortlisted 12 candidates, including Satish Jarkiholi, KPCC working president, and Channaraj Hattiholi, brother of Laxmi Hebbalkar, MLA.
“When Mr. Angadi died, the general impression was that the BJP would field his wife or daughter to benefit from the sympathy wave. But when BJP leaders started giving out signals that the family may not get the ticket, then there was some excitement in Congress circles. But that did not translate into a large number of candidates. Now we may be left with only three or four aspirants,” a Congress leader said.
Mr. Jarkiholi is said to be desirous of cultivating the image of a pan-India Scheduled Tribes leader. Mr. Hattiholi is hopeful of support from Mr. Shivakumar, who treats his sister as his protege.
Anil Lad, Maratha leader and former MP who also has been shortlisted, is banking on the large Maratha vote in the six Assembly seats in the Belagavi Lok Sabha constituency.
The names of Prakash Hukkeri, former Minister, Mahantesh Koujalagi, MLA, and V.S. Sadhunavar, KLE society director, may also be considered, say party insiders.
“However, Mr. Hukkeri may have compromised his chances by saying he would campaign for the BJP if it were to give tickets to a family member of Mr. Angadi. Mr. Sadhunvar, who lost to Mr. Angadi last time, may not be as enthusiastic this time around. Mr. Koujalagi, whose father Shivanand H. Koujalagi was Belagavi MP, is said to be disinclined to contest,” a party source said.
The committee headed by Mr. Patil is scheduled to hold another three rounds of meetings, to evaluate each prospective candidate.