Gowda has tough task on hand

Gowda has tough task on hand

Former prime minister H D Deve Gowda appears to be facing an uphill task in retaining his Hassan parliamentary seat with the energetic ruling Congress led by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah pulling out all stops to dislodge him in the Janata Dal (Secular) bastion.

Gowda, who knows fully well that his political rivals, especially Siddaramaiah and Energy Minister D K Shivakumar, have teamed up against him, has been using all his political acumen to outsmart his opponent A Manju of the Congress. A six-time MP, Gowda is seeking re-election for the fifth time from the Hassan constituency.

The Congress is slugging it out to consolidate what it calls anti-Gowda feelings among the constituents. It has netted many prominent JD(S) leaders who have fallen out with Gowda.
 The JD(S) national president, on the other hand, has been cleverly working on social engineering – hemming caste and community support in his favour in the constituency, which appears to be witnessing a straight contest between the JD(S) and the Congress. Nevertheless, all the six JD(S) MLAs have been campaigning for the party candidate.

The BJP’s C H Vijay Shankar, who is a native of Mysore and who had represented the Mysore parliamentary constituency as an MP  in 1998 and 2004, appears to be struggling to shrug off the “outsider” tag in Hassan. He was initially reluctant to contest from Hassan. 

Instead, he had sought the ticket to contest from his home turf Mysore. None of the prominent BJP leaders has so far campaigned for the party candidate in Hassan. Development is not a big issue in the constituency nor have any national issues been discussed during the campaigning. Still, the Congress has been blaming the JD(S) for the acute drinking water problem in Belur, Arsikere, Kadur and Birur.

Votes likely to be divided

The caste factor will play an important role in the Vokkaliga-dominated constituency. Of the total 15 lakh voters, Vokkaliga are about five-lakh strong. But the community votes are likely to get divided between Gowda and Manju, who is also a Vokkaliga. Lingayats and Kurubas form the second and the third largest communities with about three lakh and two lakh voters, respectively.

While the Congress is likely to garner a good chunk of the backward classes’ votes, including those of the Kurubas, owing to a number of social welfare schemes being implemented by the Siddaramaiah government, both the parties are vying with each other to earn the goodwill of the Lingayats. The community is said to have stood by the BJP in the last elections. But this time, none of the three parties has fielded a Lingayat, making the community’s support crucial for the election in Hassan.

Both the JD(S) and the Congress held a convention of Lingayats recently in order to woo them. The JD(S) went a step ahead and recently appointed a Lingayat leader (Rajshekar) as the party’s district president. More importantly, a recent statement by the BJP’s B S Yeddyurappa, the voice of the Lingayats, that senior leaders such as Gowda should be in Parliament, would work out in Gowda’s favour. Speculation is rife that there is a tacit understanding between Gowda and the BJP leaders.

Gowda also made senior Muslim leader C K Jaffer Sharief write a letter to the Congress high command that the party should not field a candidate against Gowda. The number of Muslim voters in the constituency is about 90,000.

Besides, Gowda is trying to play on the sentiments of the people saying that it would be his last election. This might work in his favour, it is said. If Gowda’s clever moves really work out, he will have an edge over his Congress rival.

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