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Triangular contest likely in Karnataka West Graduates Constituency

Two former teachers are challenging the incumbent who is also a former teacher.

: Karnataka West Graduates Constituency seems to be heading for a triangular fight with two former teachers challenging the incumbent who is also a former teacher.

Prof. S.V. Sankanur, seeking a second term, is being challenged by Prof. R.M. Kuberappa who earlier contested unsuccessfully on BJP ticket twice and turned rebel in Karnataka West Teachers Constituency in 2016. Now he is contesting on Congress ticket on a changed turf (Graduates Constituency).

The national vice-president of the All India Primary Teachers Federation (AIPTF) Basavaraj Gurikar, an independent candidate, is the second challenger for Prof. Sankanur. With the withdrawal of Janata Dal (Secular) candidate Shivashankar Kallur from the contest, Mr. Gurikar now has the support of the JD(S) along with support from the CPI, the CPI(M) and the SUCI(C). The changed scenario has certainly forced both the candidates of the mainstream parties to rework their poll strategy.

Former Cong. bastion

The West Graduates Constituency was once a Congress bastion, from where the former Minister and Congress leader H.K. Patil won four times in a row. However in 2008, Mohan Limbikai, a political greenhorn fielded by the BJP, handed him a shocking defeat putting a check to his unbeaten run. Later in the changed political scenario, Mr. Limbikai resigned from the council post in 2013 to unsuccessfully contest the Assembly election as candidate of B.S. Yediyurappa’s KJP.

With the return of Yediyurappa, Mr. Limbikai too came back to the BJP, but failed to impress upon the leadership to consider him for the council poll again. Instead of him, the BJP chose Prof. S.V. Sankanur, who by that time had lost against former Minister Basavaraj Horatti thrice in the teachers’ constituency. In 2014, despite an all out effort by Mr. Basavaraj Horatti to get his son Vasant Horatti elected to the council, Prof. Sankanur managed to convert the sympathy for him (for having lost three elections) and anti-Horatti sentiments into votes for him, registering a win with record margin of over 14,000 votes.

‘Sympathy factor’

While Prof. Sanknaur seeks a second term, his one-time friend turned foe Prof. R.M. Kuberappa is harping on the same ‘sympathy factor’ this time. Both Prof. Sankanur and Prof. Kuberappa have contested unsuccessfully against Mr. Basavaraj Horatti in the teachers constituency. Prof. Kuberappa too has lost thrice and is now striving hard to convert the sympathy factor into votes in the graduates constituency.

While BJP leaders are making all out efforts to retain the seat, Congress leaders too are campaigning extensively for winning back what was once their forte.

However both the camps are aware of the potential threat from Mr. Gurikar. Heading a teachers’ organisation, Mr. Gurikar still has a following among teachers who form a sizeable number among the graduate voters. The JD(S) has taken a calculated risk in making its candidate withdraw from the contest and support Mr. Gurikar as part of its policy to maintain equidistance from the Congress and the BJP. If everything goes on as planned, Mr. Basavaraj Horatti’s followers among the teaching fraternity might tilt the equations in favour of Mr. Gurikar.

However, with all the three being former teachers and part of different teachers’ associations, their rapport with the teaching fraternity would decide how much support they garner from the electorate. However, lack of interest among the graduates regarding the poll process has brought down the number of registered voters in the constituency from 94,356 in 2014 to 75,774 this time, which is again a challenge for the contesting candidates.

For the record, there are 11 candidates in the fray — five from political parties and six independents, including former bureaucrat B.D. Hiregoudar. As the JD(S) candidate withdrew from the contest after the deadline was over, his name will appear on the ballot paper.

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