Kolar: 2 factions rise as Cong. infighting heats up

Kolar: 2 factions rise as Cong. infighting heats up

Kolar has long been an archetypal political laboratory for the Congress and the JD(S). But today, the two parties are seen fighting for their very survival here, resulting in the emergence of an alternative leadership in the form of Independent MLA Varthur Prakash.

Prakash, who is looking to register a hat-trick victory (having won two elections in a row in 2008 and 2013), is however on a sticky wicket this election season, if the public sentiment is anything to go by.

Having cosied up to the Congress after his election, this Kuruba leader and a one-time confidant of Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, however ended up floating his own party, Namma Congress, when his entry into the grand old party was blocked.

Interestingly though, Prakash continues to enjoy the goodwill of Congress veteran and MP K H Muniyappa, who has represented Kolar Lok Sabha segment seven times. Also, Muniyappa’s willingness to relinquish his own party candidate’s electoral prospects in Kolar to facilitate Prakash’s victory, has deepened the fissures among leaders in the Congress, resulting in the emergence of two camps.

Muniyappa has taken on Kolar district in-charge minister K R Ramesh Kumar, who, fed up with the MP’s “meddlesome politicking,” now wants to ensure Prakash’s defeat.  Of the six Assembly segments in Kolar district, the Congress has fielded candidates handpicked by Muniyappa in four constituencies — Malur (K Y Nanjegowda), Bangarpet (S N Narayanswamy), KGF (A M Roopakala) and Kolar (Syed Zameer Pasha).

Roopakala is Muniyappa’s daughter, and Pasha, a former bureaucrat, is a fresh face to the electorate.

While Kumar is seeking re-election in Srinivaspur, the party has no official candidate in Mulbagal, which was represented by Independent MLA Kothur G Manjunath in 2013. Though Manjunath was inducted into the Congress, he has been barred from contesting from Mulbagal following the caste certificate row.

Manjunath, backed by Kumar, did file his nominations from Kolar, but he withdrew his papers in the eleventh hour, owing to Muniyappa’s “interference”. His candidature had given jitters to not just Prakash, but also JD(S) candidate K Srinivas Gowda. The JD(S) has reluctantly fielded Gowda, despite his hobnobbing with the Congress.

Interestingly, Manjunath’s popularity is not just restricted to Mulbagal. “The people of Kolar are fed up with Muniyappa and Varthur Prakash. We want to reject Muniyappa’s dynasty politics, and Prakash’s hooliganism politics. We were really hoping that Manjunath would contest from here, as Kolar desperately needs a change,” said, Prabhu S, a painter.    

Prabhu’s sentiments were echoed by other residents of Kolar as well. “Look at the work Kothur Manjunath has done in Mulbagal. We need a leader like him, who cares for people. While other taluks in the district have seen development, Kolar remains backward. Unfortunately, Muniyappa ensured that Manjunath does not contest from Kolar. Until Muniyappa goes, Kolar will not see any development,” said Gopi, a 44-year-old labourer.