It’s a triangular fight among Moily, Kumaraswamy and Bachegowda
In an election that was devoid of issues, Congress heavyweight M Veerappa Moily registered an emphatic win against the political minnows fielded by BJP and JD(S) in 2009.
Five years later, as he aims at a second term, Moily faces a stiff challenge from the most charismatic JD(S) leader H D Kumaraswamy and former minister B N Bachegowda (BJP), known for his political aggression, in an evenly poised contest.
The Union Petroleum Minister is battling not just his powerful opponents but also public resentment as he was not accessible to his constituents and a myriad assurances he had made, such as establishing a super-speciality hospital, an industrial corridor and an IIT at Muddenahalli, are yet to materialise. While the unfulfilled promise of a permanent irrigation scheme has turned into a major poll issue, the recently launched Yettinahole project to provide drinking water to the arid region has not brought much cheer to the people.
Despite all these developments, the Congress camp is confident that Moily will retain the seat. For, five of the eight Assembly segments in the constituency are represented by the Congress and all the MLAs are burning the midnight oil for ensuring the party’s victory.
Local Congress leaders fear that if Kumaraswamy wins, he will convert the region into his fiefdom, as he did in Ramanagara, affecting their political future.
The Congress’ prospects have brightened with former Union minister R L Jalappa, who had worked against Moily in 2009, now supporting the party to settle scores with the H D Deve Gowda clan.
Besides, unlike the BJP and the JD(S), the Congress has a good presence across this unwieldy constituency. The party believes that it will get a lion’s share of the OBC and SC/ST votes which are in huge numbers while the nearly 3.50 lakh Vokkaliga votes would get divided between Kumaraswamy and Bachegowda. There are widespread rumours across the constituency that JD(S) fielded Kumaraswamy only to split the Vokkaliga votes and help Moily.
For Hassan-born and Bangalore-bred Kumaraswamy, who entered the fray at the eleventh hour, this is not an alien turf. He enjoys a huge fan following particularly in Chikkaballapur, which was made a new district when he was the chief minister.
Though he has not been able to devote much time to campaign, local leaders are striving for his victory. They are banking heavily on ‘Kumaranna’ charisma. JD(S), which has a strong base in Devanahalli, Nelamangala and Doddaballapur, is trying to consolidate the Vokkaliga votes in its favour. But, the party lags in leadership and organisation in Bagepalli and Hoskote.
The biggest advantage for the BJP, which is depending on the Modi wave, is that it has a strong presence in Yelahanka, the largest Assembly segment in the constituency.
Bachegowda, who started his campaign almost three months ago and has his own network in the constituency, is eyeing a big lead in his pocketborough of Hoskote.
Leaders of the dominant Balija community are said to be strongly backing the BJP as the community got the backward classes tag when B S Yeddyurappa was the chief minister.
But a major worry for the BJP is that it has hardly any base in Devanahalli, Chikkaballapur and Bagepalli Assembly segments.