In caste-driven Gundlupet, Cong, BJP banking on sympathy for votes

Ministers rally behind Geetha Prasad; saffron party holds roadshows

In caste-driven Gundlupet, Cong, BJP banking on sympathy for votes

Sympathy and caste seem to matter the most in the Gundlupet Assembly constituency, which has remained the fiefdom of the Lingayat community.

And the two national parties, the Congress and the BJP, are doing everything to address these aspects to emerge victorious in the byelections scheduled on April 9.

Both parties believe that the electorate is sympathetic towards their respective candidates.

The ruling Congress has fielded Mohan Kumari (also known as Geetha), wife of the late minister H S Mahadev Prasad, while BJP is hopeful that the electorate will bless its candidate C S Niranjan Kumar, as he and his father the late Chowdahalli Shivamallappa had both lost elections in the constituencies twice in the past. All the MLAs who represented the constituency since 1957 are Lingayats.

The byelection in Gundlupet is being held due to the death of Mahadev Prasad, a prominent Lingayat leader who represented the constituency five times in a row. The Congress was initially hoping that it will be smooth sailing, riding on the sympathy wave. But the party is finding the going tough as the day of polling nears.

The party workers have of late begun murmuring about their candidate’s difficulty in connecting with the electorate, especially village folk. Mohan Kumari is a novice in politics. Being a writer and a poet, she had kept away from the hustle and bustle of politics. So much so that many people in and around Halahalli, the native village of Mahadev Prasad near Gundlupet, had not even seen her till recently. She is considered more urban.

The Congress has therefore deputed a dozen ministers to manage the campaign. The Congress' team is led by Water Resources Minister M B Patil and Energy Minister D K Shivakumar, who is known for his organising skills.

Mohan Kumari too has been sweating it out in the sweltering heat, crisscrossing villages in the constituencies as part of the campaign. The party is expected to get a leg-up in the campaign with Chief Minister Siddaramaiah joining the team from Saturday.

The BJP camp is led by Yeddyurappa's close confidant Arvind Limbavali. A host of party leaders are touring the constituency drumming up support for the party candidate. While the party candidate has been conducting roadshows and padayatras, the leaders are busy holding caste-based public meetings in hoblis. The saffron party leaders are holding women’s rallies to get their support. Yeddyurappa chose to celebrate Udagi at a Dalit party worker's house in Chowdahalli near Gundlupet town in order to woo the community’s voters, who form the second largest group next to Lingayats in the constituency.

‘Husband’s work will fetch me votes’
Mohan Kumari and her party leaders are seeking votes promising to continue the developmental work initiated by Mahadeva Prasad. “I am totally confident of winning in the constituency which my husband served for over two decades. I want to continue his good work. The electorate will not let me down,” she said.

‘Cong misrule will make people pick me’
Niranjan Kumar is confident that people will vote for a change and he will be their next choice. “People are fed up with misrule all these years. Severe drinking water problem across the constituency shows how development was neglected all these years. I am not only highlighting the issues in the campaign but also explaining how each of them can be solved,” he said.

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