The BJP does not have sweet memories of the Belagavi region of Karnataka as far as the 2018 assembly election is concerned. The party fell short by just eight seats to attain a majority in the elections which ultimately cost it the government. The party had hoped to win the majority of the 18 seats from the Belagavi region but managed to win just nine seats. It is a sore that the state BJP will not forget easily.,

But now that very same region has raised hopes for the BJP of toppling the JD(S)–Congress government and of forming its own government thanks to the infighting in the Congress surrounding the district.

It has been over ten days now that reports of a serious feud between two powerful brothers and Congress MLAs Satish and Ramesh Jarkhiholi of the region, the newly elected MLA and state Mahila Congress president Lakshmi Hebbalkar and state’s Water Resources minister DK Shivakumar are appearing virtually every day. Ramesh Jarkhiholi is also a minister in the Kumaraswamy government. This has reportedly threatened the very existence of the 100 day old Karnataka government led by chief minister KD Kumaraswamy.

There is a very significant influence and clout of the Jarkiholi family in the Belagavi district and it has been their citadel for over two decades.

But this triangle-feud has virtually put the Karnataka government at risk of being toppled.

It had been reported that a secret meeting was held by Ramesh Jarkhiholi on Tuesday morning with some of the Congress MLAs at a private hotel in Bengaluru. No one can say with any degree of certainty what transpired in the meeting. The meeting assumed very significant proportion after H D Kumaraswamy himself rushed to the meeting to meet up with the disgruntled MLAs in a desperate effort to save the coalition and his government.

The hiatus between Lakshmi and the Jarkhiholi brothers began soon after the assembly elections and the JD(S) and Congress coalition forming the government earlier in the year. There were allegations levelled against the Jarkhiholi brothers by Lakshmi about their interference in her assembly constituency.

It is at this point that senior state congress leader and minister in the government DK Shivakumar entered the feud and allegedly backed Lakshmi against the Jarkhiholi brothers.

More recently, the feud spilled out in the public domain after a fight between the faction of the Jarkiholi brothers and Lakshmi Hebbalkar during the elections to the Primary Land Development Bank as both the parties wanted to have their close aids get elected to the posts of president and vice president of the bank.

The infighting also further escalated after the Jarkiholi brothers met former CM Siddaramaiah and apprised him about their concerns about the current situation in the district.

Sources have said that the state Congress was given a stern warning by the Jarkhiholi brothers about serious consequences if the party did not put a leash on Lakshmi Hebbalkar in the district and if Shivakumar is not stopped from meddling in the party affairs in the district.

The seriousness of the situation can be gauged from the fact that the Congress high command in Delhi has asked the Jarkiholi brothers to come to Delhi to sort out the matter. They are scheduled to come to the national capital on Wednesday.

The state Congress however has attempted to boil down the situation and the general secretary of All India Congress Committee in charge of Karnataka K.C. Venugopal said: “It is purely a local issue and I’m confident that Mr. Siddaramaiah will sort it out. However, I have asked them to come to Delhi if there is anything more to discuss.”

But it remains to be seen whether the Congress high command would be able to placate the aggrieved parties or whether the BJP will be able to take advantage of the situation and brew more trouble for the JD(S)–Congress government.

Credit: Debadatta Ghosh

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