Fierce contest likely in Belgaum North

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Source: The Hindu
Congress has fielded Feroz Sait Khimjibhai
Ramesh Kudachi is JD(S) candidate
MES, which is facing the problem of rebel candidates, is trying to win back the seat

The electoral battle lines have become clear in Belgaum North constituency with the Congress naming Feroz Sait Khimjibhai as its candidate on Friday.
There is jubilation among the Muslim community members in the constituency as the Congress has conceded their demand. The Congress has considered the candidature of a Muslim leader for the first time from the constituency which was called Belgaum City before delimitation. However, this decision has cost the party dearly, as the two-time MLA Ramesh L. Kudachi quit the Congress and is in the fray as the Janata Dal (Secular) candidate.

Muslims in general and the Minority Cell of the Belgaum District Congress Committee have been demanding the party ticket to a Muslim candidate. They argued that Muslims had been traditionally supporting the Congress but the party had never done “justice” to the community or its leaders.
The contest is likely to be fierce in the constituency as there are a large number of Muslims in the segment and the Maharashtra Ekikaran Samithi (MES) is trying to win back the seat which it had lost in 1999 and 2004. The MES has fielded the former mayor Vijay Pandurang More for the constituency.
Mr. Kudachi, who belongs to Kuruba community, which has a sizeable presence in the constituency, had defeated the MES candidates in the last two elections with the support of Kannada-speaking electorate and a large section of Muslim voters. He is, however, confident that his “vote bank” is intact.
Senior leader of the MES Deepak Dalvi has filed his nomination papers as a rebel to “teach a lesson” to the samithi’s leader Kiran Thakur. Problems in the MES have further compounded with Ramesh Paule, a follower of Mr. Dalvi, filing his nomination papers on Saturday.
Though none of the MES candidates in the previous elections enjoyed any sympathy of Kannada-speaking voters, Mr. More, who belongs to the Scheduled Castes, is popular among all sections of society. People have seen him as a social worker who is available to the common man round the clock.
The Bharatitya Janata Party’s bet with the former Chairman of Belgaum Urban Development Authority Shankargouda Patil, a Lingayat, is not being taken well within the party itself. The only criterion for his candidature is stated to be his close association with the former Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa.
Though the Shiv Sena has fielded the former corporator Prakash Shirolkar, who recently raised the banner of revolt against the MES, his presence in the fray is likely to affect the prospects of the MES. However, the MES is trying to convince rebels to withdraw from the fray to avoid a split in the Marathi votes.

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