Belagavi region is in the limelight for all the wrong reasons at the present juncture and if the growing rift within some leaders of the governing Congress goes unchecked, then it could spell trouble to the coalition government headed by the Janata Dal (Secular) leader H.D. Kumaraswamy. Attempts to topple the government is, however, farfetched, given the reach of those desiring to do so.
On the face of it, a petty issue relating to elections to a primary land development bank in Belagavi has purportedly created bad blood between the powerful Jarkiholi brothers of Gokak and equally powerful Belagavi legislator Laxmi Hebbalkar. But then, differences between the two groups have escalated over the past year, more so, after the latter was elected to the Legislative Assembly recently. One of the Jarkiholi brothers is Ramesh Jarkiholi, Minister for Municipal Administration, and he, along with his younger sibling Satish Jarkiholi, has been quite vocal in expressing his dissent.
The Congress central leadership has stepped in and sent across an emissary to sort out the differences between the two factions. So is Chief Minister Mr. Kumaraswamy, although it is not for him to iron out the issues in the Congress. Mr. Kumaraswamy was in Belagavi on Saturday and the subject obviously came up for a discussion.
Indications are that the day is not far off when disciplinary action will be initiated against the Jarkiholi brothers if they continued with their statements against Ms. Hebbalkar, who is also president of the women’s wing of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee. In the view of the KPCC, Ms. Hebbalkar has abided by the party instructions and has even refrained from any public statements despite all the provocations. KPCC president Dinesh Gundu Rao is seized of the matter and is believed to be keeping the party leadership updated.
The five brothers of the Jarkiholi family are spread out among the important political parties and for over two decades at least one brother is in the government, irrespective of the party in power. The brothers consequently command a big clout in the Belagavi region but they do not enjoy the requisite support of legislators should they desire to topple the government. Their present focus at best may be restricted to curbing the growing influence of Ms. Hebbalkar, who has become a major political leader in the region, and even here they may not succeed since she enjoys the support of D.K. Shivakumar, the powerful Congress leader and Minister. Belagavi has 18 Assembly seats and this is only next to Bengaluru, which has 28 seats.
The rift between the brothers and Ms. Hebbalkar is more than political, and informed sources said it was largely owing to some commercial transactions apart from their dislike to Mr. Shivakumar. Further, with farm loan waivers being ordered frequently, regional leaders are keen on having a control over cooperative banks which disburse loans to farmers.
It should be noted that the Bharatiya Janata Party, which narrowly missed in government formation despite being the single largest party on the floor of the Assembly, is waiting for the day when differences would crop up within the Congress or the JD(S) and a big chunk of legislators will cross over to its fold to enable it to form the government. The differences within the Congress in the Belagavi region is thus being closely watched.
(The writer is Resident Representative, The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy, Bengaluru)
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