JD(S)' 'secret pact' with BJP makes Mysore a close call

JD(S)' 'secret pact' with BJP makes Mysore a close call

Caste factor, Siddaramaiah backing plus points for Vishwanath

The Lok Sabha polls are set for a close finish in the Mysore-Kodagu constituency, with the BJP and Congress candidates slugging it out and a number of permutations and combinations at play.

 The constituency gains primacy for several reasons. Mainly because it is Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s home turf. The Congress candidate A H Vishwanath is a Kuruba like Siddaramaiah, and he is fighting to retain the seat against political greenhorn Pratap Simha, the Vokkaliga candidate of the BJP.

The JD(S) has fielded former judge Chandrashekaraiah, who has remained inconsequential right from the word go. Of the 15 elections, Congress has held this seat 13 times, while BJP had managed to wrest the same from the Grand Old Party twice. The constituency comprises large chunks of Vokkaliga, Dalit, minorities and Kuruba voters, followed by Lingayats and a sprinkling of Brahmin voters.

Match-fixing

Ideally, retaining this seat should not have been difficult for the Congress. But owing to the anti-incumbency factor dogging the ‘halli hakki,’ as Vishwanath calls himself, coupled with the repercussions of his tongue-lashing against JD(S) supremo H D Deve Gowda and his family, the Congress is forced to spend more energy in its own stronghold. The JD(S) is “out to get” both Vishwanath and Siddaramaiah, its arch political rivals, and is leaving no stone unturned this election season. 

Like elsewhere in the State, the party has made a covert arrangement with the BJP, giving Simha (who is riding high on the ‘Modi wave’) a jump start. While there has been minimal canvassing for Chandrashekaraiah in Mysore, JD(S) has not bothered to campaign for its candidate anywhere in Kodagu, Hunsur and Periyapatna. 

Not only are JD(S) party workers seen participating in BJP meetings, it is also heavily rumoured that JD(S) leaders have funded the BJP candidate, who enjoys the support of urban voters and the youth. 

It is a prestige issue for Siddaramaiah to ensure victory for Vishwanath. What could work in favour of the Congress is the internal differences in the BJP. Simha has alienated himself from local leaders, who have expressed discontent over his conduct. 

Though both the Assembly seats in Kodagu are held by BJP, MLAs Appacchu Ranjan and K G Bopaiah are not campaigning as aggressively as they should have been. The threat of Simha’s growth and his proximity to the high command looms large, intimidating the legislators. All these factors are making it difficult to predict the results in all eight Assembly constituencies.

Of the approximate 4.2 lakh population in Kodagu district, over three lakh people directly depend on coffee. Kodagu produces 40 per cent of India’s coffee, contributing to one per cent of the global need. 

Coffee produce

While the district experienced scanty rainfall in 2012-13, it received very heavy rainfall during 2013-14, affecting serious crop damage (including that of pepper). Less than 50 per cent of the usual coffee produce has been picked here. Though coffee price has stabilised, the yield has been so poor that growers are unable to break even. 

A majority of the growers (30,000 odd) are small landholders, cultivating less than two acres of land. The major demand by the coffee growers is that of loan waiver and landholding from the government.

The district is also dogged by concerns over the implementation of the Kasturirangan report, laying of the 400 KV high tension line and man-animal conflict. People in the district have vociferously opposed the panel recommendations and also the power project.

While support price for tobacco remains the primary demand of the growers in Periyapatna (predominantly tobacco-growing belt), people of the adjacent Hunsur, which also grows tobacco, are seen struggling to avail themselves of basic needs like drinking water, roads, healthcare and drainage. None of these villages has been on Vishwanath’s priority list in the last five years. As a result, the villagers have neither met nor seen him.
 Open revolt

Vishwanath has begun to pay a heavy price for this in the last one week. As many as nine villages, including Bannikuppe, Singaramaranahalli, Hanagudu, Gaddige, Halebeedu, Be­e­j­aganahalli, Kattemalavadi, Javanikuppe openly revolted against the sitting MP when he approached them, seeking votes.

“Continued demands to resolve issues faced by tobacco growers have fallen on deaf ears. Unfortunately, we don’t know who Pratap Simha is. So we are left with no choice, but rely on the Congress government and Siddaramaiah’s contributions in the last few months, and vote the Congress back to power,” says Shekar, who earns a living by growing tobacco on seven acres in Madhugirikoppalu in Hunsur taluk. 

The only long-standing demand of the people of the four city Assembly constituencies - Krishnaraja, Chamaraja, Narasimharaja and Chamundeshwari - is employment opportunities, aside from completion of the rail line between Mysore and Kodagu. Industry has never thrived in Mysore and policymakers are not even working in that direction. 

Non-polluting industries

“We want to preserve Mysore as a heritage city. We don’t want industries coming up here and polluting Mysore. But, we can bring in non-polluting industries. The Congress government is also focused upon generating employment for the youth in IT/BT sector in the constituency,” says Vishwanath.

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