Bidar on the north-eastern edge of Karnataka borders Telangana and Maharashtra and was one of the places that saw the movement for separate religion status for Lingayat gather steam. The issue, however, is not a talking point in this Lok Sabha elections here.
Two key candidates — Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee working president Eshwar Khandre, MLA, and incumbent BJP MP Bhagwant Khuba — belong to the Banajiga subcaste of Lingayat. The potent issue of whether Lingayat is an independent religion or not evens out here as both the candidates are opposed to it. Unlike some other Lingayat leaders in the Congress, Mr. Khandre has not supported the demand for a separate religion status for Lingayat.
Mr. Khuba, an engineering graduate who furthered his family’s interest in road and railway contracts, became an MP in 2014. He had never fought an election and was aided by the nationwide wave in favour of the BJP. He defeated the former Chief Minister N. Dharam Singh, who was seeking re-election.
Mr. Khuba believes national security is the biggest poll issue now and that he will sail through on what he perceives as a “pro-Modi wave”.
Mr. Eshwar Khandre, also an engineer, was groomed by his father and Congress strongman Bheemanna Khandre to be his political heir.
Mr. Eshwar Khandre is banking on his father’s popularity and his work as a Minister in the past.
Bidar is among the most backward districts of the State as per the report of D.M. Nanjundappa committee on redressal of regional imbalances. Bidar was chosen for the food for work programme in the 1960s and the pilot project of MGNREGA in 2004. It was among the four districts of the State chosen for the Rashtriya Sam Vikas Yojana and the Backward Region Grant Fund project. However, despite these and the special funds released by the Hyderabad Karnataka Regional Development Board, there is little change in the living conditions of the poorest of the district. But it is caste calculations that dominate the political discourse.