The fight in Dharwad is not limited to the Assembly elections where women of the house are battling it out by turning the polls into a fight for justice.
Barred from entering Dharwad district, Congress candidate Vinay Kulkarni’s wife and daughter are going door-to-door to convince voters, while he himself camps on the periphery of the constituency to support his family pursuing his campaign through social media.
Being accused and out on bail in connection with the murder of Zila Panchayat member Yogeesh Gowda, Kulkarni is not allowed to enter Dharwad district as per a Supreme Court order. Though he tried to get a respite from this restriction, citing the elections, the High Court struck down his request recently.
Kulkarni — a former minister for Mines and Geology — has won twice from this seat, once as an independent (in 2004) and again on a Congress ticket (2013), while the BJP has won twice. Speaking to PTI, his wife Shivaleela said, ”My husband is staying out of the constituency for almost three years now. When we lost the support of friends and relatives because of the case, I decided to stand up and spearhead the campaign all alone.”
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In the last few elections, she was not actively engaged in poll activities, now the entire family has taken it up as a challenge. Shivaleela is busy in the door-to-door campaign and holding rallies in the constituency keeping a cutout of her husband. ”I am trying to meet a number of maximum people face-to-face and convince them to vote for our party. The public response has been good so far,” she said and exuded confidence that her husband will win the election with a good margin.
Shivaleela, who has never given public speeches and held any position in the party, is slogging it out along with her children in the crucial ‘do or die’ campaign for the family. ”I feel the pressure because there is too much attention on us as dad is not in the constituency,” said Kulkarni’s 25-year-old daughter Vaishali who had to skip her semester LLB exams to help her family in the electioneering.
Vaishali along with her younger brother have taken the responsibility of setting up a route of LED vans and facilitate her father’s live interaction besides managing distribution of campaign material like pamphlets. ”My father is not tech savvy but he has now learnt how to make video calls and send locations on WhatsApp. He is managing well so far,” Vaishali said and added some people themselves go outside the constituency to meet my father to put forth their grievances. So far, none of the senior Congress leaders have come for campaigning here. ”We are managing on our own,” she added.
Praising her wife and children’s efforts, Kulkarni — campaigning outside the constituency — criticised the BJP for harassment meted out to him and the family in carrying out the election campaign. ”They are troubling us for using social media. Our vehicles and followers are tracked. Income Tax raids are conducted on our close associates. All tactics are being used to put pressure and defeat me in this election,” he said.
Kulkarni, however, said he will easily win from this seat as he is banking on strong anti-incumbency and Lingayats’ votes to defeat sitting BJP MLA Amrut Desai. There are 2.17 lakh voters in Dharwad Assembly constituency and Lingayats votes are dominant and are the deciding factor. No party or candidate has held this seat successively since 1983.