Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has campaigned only once at Badami since the time of his nomination. As the Chief Minister spends time campaigning in other parts of the state, his chances of returning to Badami – which is the second seat he is contesting from this election – are limited.
The Congress and its CM, however, are confident of bagging the Badami seat with the support of Bombay-Karnataka strongman, Satish Jarkiholi. Leaving his own constituency in Yemakanmardi, where he says he doesn’t have to sweat for victory, Satish has been camping in Badami since his nomination.
Sitting at a restaurant in Badami city, Satish carefully slices an idli into eight parts. After pouring chutney over it, he waits for the pieces to soak its flavour. “There are about 55,000 Lingayats, 45,000 Kurabas, 55,000 from the ST/SC community and Muslims account for around 20,000,” he explains, while waiting for his idli to get soggy enough.
Getting the caste equations right – which play a big role in Karnataka politics – is tricky in Badami. Although the STs are considered a traditional Congress vote bank, in Badami, 90% of the ST population comprise of the Valmiki community. BJP’s candidate in Badami, Sriramulu belongs to this community and Satish thinks the Valmiki votes may, as a result, swing in favour of the saffron party.
But Jarkiholi is unaffected. “Arrangements have been made,” he says, while savouring the plate of idlis.
The Sugar Baron and Strategist
After the Congress gave Siddaramaiah the go-ahead to contest from Badami, he had insisted on a meeting with Satish Jarkiholi. The CM had demanded unconditional support and the promise of victory from the sugar baron.
But many were sceptical because of their history. Satish, a Siddaramaiah loyalist, had followed him to Congress from JD(S). However, in 2013 when Siddaramaiah became Chief Minster, he was given the excise department portfolio. Satish, who was unhappy with the administrative job, asked for a portfolio, where he could work with the people.
When his demands fell on deaf ears, he tendered his resignation from his minister’s post. Siddaramaiah, however, snubbed him by not giving him a ministership and replaced his cabinet berth with his brother Ramesh Jarkiholi. It was only much later that he was given the responsibility of the department of small scale industries. So when the Siddaramaiah called for a meeting with Satish, all eyes were on the sugar baron. But bringing an end to speculation, soon after filing his nomination at Yemakanmardi in Belagavi, Jarkiholi left for Badami, where he has been camping since.
The Jarkiholi Family and Their Influence
The growth of the Jarkiholi family is linked to the sugar industry in Belagavi. The five Jarkiholi brothers – Ramesh, Satish, Balachandra, Bhishmi and Lankan – have over the years amassed a fortune from their sugar business and entered the political fray.
In Belagavi district, which has second highest number of seats in Karnataka after Bengaluru, the Jarkiholi family wields undisputed power. However, their political powers are divided amongst the brothers.
While Ramesh, Satish and Lankan are part of the Congress party, Balachandra and Bhimshi are part of the BJP. Even though the brothers have different political views, when it comes to controlling the three sugar factories they own, the differences are set aside.
Badami has Eased the Pressure on CM
Satish feels contesting from Badami has eased the pressure on Siddaramaiah. “If he was contesting only from Chamundeshwari, it would have been difficult. Forces were uniting to defeat him. Now that he has come to Badami, they are loosening up in Chamundeshwari,” he says.
He added that if the Chief Minister hadn’t contested from Badami, the seat would have gone to JD(S). Siddaramaiah’s decision to contest from Badami, however, will not only ensure Congress wins the seat but will also help candidates in neighbouring constituencies, says the sugar baron. “Yes, this will be a tough fight. Even though the margin will be less, we will win here,” Satish rationalises.
The Silent Force
In the midst of his late breakfast, an assistant informs Satish that the Chief Minister has landed. “Good,” says Satish and continues with his meal. When asked if he is going to receive the CM, he says he will meet him at the venue.
At the venue, as Siddaramaiah was giving TV interviews, Satish spent time with the workers and supporters waiting for the CM. He gave no speech but obliged every selfie, as he waited patiently.
Minutes later, Siddaramaiah arrived. While the party leaders and workers gathered to listen to the CM’s speech, Satish sat in his seat passing on instructions over the phone.
Snatching Sriramalu’s Valmiki Support
B Sriramulu is banking on the support of his Valmiki community, which is categorised as a Scheduled Tribe. However, the Congress hopes to cut into Sriramulu’s votes using Satish, who is a prominent Valmiki leader in the party.
And while Satish does the caste arithmetic in the constituency, he admits that the Lingayat votes in the region could swing both ways on account of the Congress government’s decision to recommend separate religion for the community. “Yes, many consider this decision to be an attempt to divide the Lingayat community, we may lose votes there. But we will gain votes of those Basava followers who want a separate religion,” he trails off.