Jarkiholi, Hebbalkar slugfest intensifies

Belagavi The political rivalry between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator from Gokak, Ramesh Jarkiholi, and the Belagavi rural MLA, Laxmi Hebbalkar, of the Congress continues to take bitter and personal turns, adding to the challenges of both the parties and their prospects in the border district, about 505 kms from Bengaluru
Ramesh Jarkiholi (HT Archives)
Ramesh Jarkiholi (HT Archives)
Published on Jan 24, 2022 01:19 AM IST
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ByRavindra Uppar

Belagavi

The political rivalry between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator from Gokak, Ramesh Jarkiholi, and the Belagavi rural MLA, Laxmi Hebbalkar, of the Congress continues to take bitter and personal turns, adding to the challenges of both the parties and their prospects in the border district, about 505 kms from Bengaluru.

The latest in the feud is when Hebbalkar said Ramesh Jarkiholi resembled a “demon” that has gone viral on social media and added to the personal nature of politics in this region of Karnataka where constituencies are treated like fiefdoms.

After laying foundation stone of a road work at Mavinakatte, a village in her constituency, Hebbalkar used the platform to express her anger against Jarkiholi. Hebbalkar alleged that Mavinakatte road work, which had been sanctioned two years ago, and was blocked by Jarkiholi. “There are such demons that come and go in life. But I will work for you until I have your blessings,” Hebbalkar said addressing a gathering.

Hebbalkar did not stop just calling Ramesh a ‘demon’. She said, “Eclipses don’t spare even sun and moon. Finally I am a human being. But the moon and sun shine again once the eclipse is over.”

The rivalry between the Congress and BJP has little to do with the relationship of these two elected representatives in the border district where the Jarkiholi brothers wield significant influence over the region, often by overruling their counterparts.

Hebbalkar has often been at the receiving end of such targeted attacks, especially by Ramesh.

The spat had sparked the fire between Ramesh, his brother Satish, and Hebbalkar who was believed to be nudged by Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president DK Shivakumar, leading to the collapse of the HD Kumaraswamy-led coalition government in 2019.

The collapse of the coalition rule and the next government under BS Yediyurappa, in which Ramesh was the irrigation minister, had stopped all public works, including Mavinkatti road work sanctioned to the constituency as sort of a “revenge”, people aware of the developments said.

That the Jarkiholis favour family over party ideology was seen in the December 10 legislative council polls in which the fourth brother, Lakhan, who contested as an independent, won against the BJP.

Ramesh and his brother Balachandra are BJP legislators while Satish is with the Congress and Lakhan is an independent MLC.

Ramesh was forced to step down from the cabinet last year after he was alleged to be involved in a “sex for job” scandal. He has been busy trying to win his place back in the Basavaraj Bommai-led government.

Ramesh could not be reached for comment.

Ramesh had made sexist remarks against Hebbalkar when he was an accused in the sex scandal. Hebbalkar just said, “It was his (Ramesh Jarkiholi) culture”.

Interestingly, it was Ramesh who had initially helped Hebbalkar in her early political career and things got sour when she moved closer to Shivakumar.

Hebbalkar has over the years mustered enough support and influence to take on the Jarkiholis and was successful in getting her brother, Channaraj Hattiholi, elected to the upper house of the state legislature in the December 10 polls.

Before the video leak of the alleged sex scandal, Ramesh was actively working in Belagavi (rural) constituency and attracting Hebbalkar followers towards BJP as a part of strategy to give a tough fight in the upcoming assembly elections. Even some of the zilla panchayat and taluk panchayat members had joined the BJP. Jarkiholi had openly announced spending 5 crore on behalf of the BJP candidate against Hebbalkar in the election.

Hebbalkar too has moved to an offensive stance after being on the back foot for several years, owing to her growing influence and strength in the border district.

“Both Hebbalkar and Ramesh Jarkiholi have drawn their swords and the personal nature of the political rivalry would only get more aggressive. Ramesh played a key role in Hebbalkar to become district Congress president and later get elected as legislator. But rivalry started when Hebbalkar tried to overtake Jarkiholis in PLD bank elections. Now, both are engaged in engineering strategies to defeat each other. Hebbalkar thinks her strength has doubled after her brother was elected to legislative council. However, the next assembly election will show the result of who won the rivalry”, a senior political analyst from the district said, requesting anonymity.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2022