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Kumaraswamy banks on his stature as ‘Star’ Chandru plays ‘native’ card

For years, Congress and the JD(S) have fought bitter elections and their rivalry is the stuff of legend.
Last Updated : 17 April 2024, 20:58 IST
Last Updated : 17 April 2024, 20:58 IST

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Mandya: It is a high-stakes battle for former chief minister H D Kumaraswamy of the JD(S) as he must fend off the challenge posed by a political rookie backed by the ruling Congress’ might in Mandya, the agrarian Vokkaliga bastion.

For years, Congress and the JD(S) have fought bitter elections and their rivalry is the stuff of legend. 

Last year, JD(S) ceded ground to Congress, which won six out of eight Assembly constituencies that come under Mandya Lok Sabha seat. 

Congress has fielded Venkataramane Gowda, a contractor better known as ‘Star Chandru’. He is the brother of Gauribidanur’s independent MLA K H Puttaswamy Gowda. 

Sumalatha factor

Much water has flown in the Cauvery since 2019, when Kumaraswamy’s son Nikhil lost his maiden election here against the BJP-backed independent Sumalatha Ambareesh.

Then, JD(S) and Congress had a coalition. Today, BJP and JD(S) are together. Sumalatha has joined BJP, choosing not to contest. 

A few things are currently in Kumaraswamy’s favour, especially the fact that people know him better than Chandru. 

“Kumaraswamy was CM twice. We recognise him. We’ve only been hearing about the Congress candidate for the last few months, although he claims to belong to Mandya,” one voter from Melkote said. 

Son’s defeat

Some voters are also sympathetic towards Kumaraswamy, because of his son Nikhil’s defeat in 2019.

“For no mistake of his, Nikhil lost. We regret that,” Venki Gowda from Dodda Garudanahalli village said.

Cauvery issue

“This time, we need to rectify that mistake and vote for a candidate who’ll be our voice in Parliament, when it comes to the Cauvery issue,” he said. 

Mindful that people are not all familiar with him, Chandru hit the ground early and finished one tour of the entire constituency. 

‘Outsider’ vs self-respect

Congress, especially Chandru, is telling voters that Kumaraswamy is an outsider (he was born in Hassan and does politics in Ramanagara).

“I am the son of Mandya,” has become Chandru’s chant to establish an emotional connection with voters.

He is even talking about ‘swabhimana’ (self-esteem), a call that people should vote to keep their self-respect intact, something Sumalatha did successfully five years ago. 

The Congress is also depending on the success of the five guarantee schemes to defeat Kumaraswamy in Mandya.

“Our guarantees have reached all households. There’s at least one beneficiary in every house here. Also, we have the highest number of MLAs here. So, it’s positive for us,” Congress MLC Dinesh Gooligowda said. 

Not happy

One voter from Baby village is disappointed with the Gruha Lakshmi scheme, that provides Rs 2,000 per month to a woman in every family.

“In my family, there are three women. But only the eldest daughter-in-law is getting the money and the other two are disappointed,” he said. 

According to one estimate, Mandya has 7.89 lakh Vokkaligas, making them the single largest electoral
bloc.

It will be bad news for Congress if Kumaraswamy succeeds in consolidating this community. The Lingayats, traditionally identified as BJP’s support base, have around 1.61 lakh votes. 

Gantegondanahalli voter S Ramesh said the BJP and JD(S) are working together on the ground. 

Reports that Kumaraswamy will become a union minister if elected is a big talking point in the constituency. 

“We can trust him for resolving the Cauvery issue. He was the one who waived farm loans. How can we forget that?” Doddaswamy from Gudigenahalli said. 

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Published 17 April 2024, 20:58 IST

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