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Lok Sabha elections 2024: Kolar headed for a photo-finish in a ‘local’ vs ‘outsider’ contest

Muniyappa, now a minister in the Siddaramaiah Cabinet, represented Kolar seven times from 1991 until he was defeated in 2019 by BJP’s S Muniswamy. With the BJP relinquishing the seat to the JD(S), the regional party has fielded M Mallesh Babu against Congress’ K V Gowtham.
Last Updated : 19 April 2024, 22:10 IST
Last Updated : 19 April 2024, 22:10 IST

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The absence of Congress veteran K H Muniyappa could turn the Lok Sabha election in Kolar into anybody’s game as the grand old party is relying on a political greenhorn to wrest the seat from BJP, which is backing a JD(S) candidate here. 

Muniyappa, now a minister in the Siddaramaiah Cabinet, represented Kolar seven times from 1991 until he was defeated in 2019 by BJP’s S Muniswamy. With the BJP relinquishing the seat to the JD(S), the regional party has fielded M Mallesh Babu against Congress’ K V Gowtham. 

Gowtham’s candidature came after much drama. Muniyappa wanted the ticket for his son-in-law K G Chikka Peddanna, an SC (Left). But his rival faction within Congress demanded an SC (Right) candidate. At least five sitting lawmakers moved to resign. Finally, Congress chose Gowtham, a “neutral” candidate, hoping that both Muniyappa and his rivals fall in line. 

Muniyappa, however, is not seen in the election scene. Even former speaker K R Ramesh Kumar, Muniyappa’s rival, is seen on and off. Their perceived lack of involvement could ultimately work as an advantage for the BJP-JD(S) alliance. 

Kolar, an SC reserve, also has Vokkaligas, Kurubas and Muslims. Among SCs, the Chalavadis and Madigas are in equal numbers. The Bhovis, to which Babu belongs, form a sizable number. Gowtham is a Madiga. 

Because of a delay in the announcement of their tickets, Gowtham and Babu started their campaigns around the same time. 

The election in Kolar has boiled down to which narrative will sell best with the voter - Congress’ guarantees, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s sway or the ‘local versus outsider’ spin. 

Traditionally, Kolar has been the Congress’ stronghold with the party winning 15 out of 17 elections here. Congress’ Gowtham believes he has the edge as the party holds five out of eight Assembly segments that come under the Lok Sabha constituency. Most of the MLAs are identified with the anti-Muniyappa camp. It remains to be seen if they will give their 100% to ensure the victory of Gowtham, a candidate they did not ask for. 

Adding to the Congress’ prospects are five guarantee schemes that are being talked about by voters. 

Former BJP MLA M Narayanaswamy told DH that the BJP’s support base in Kolar has grown substantially in the last 10 years because of Modi. “But we can’t completely discount the impact of Congress’ guarantees. However, given that Congress is a divided house, the guarantees won’t be enough. The absence of Muniyappa, who is still a force here, will surely help us in a big way,” he explained.

Besides the ‘Modi Ki Guarantee’ appeal, the BJP-JD(S) alliance is also playing the sympathy card for Babu as he narrowly lost Assembly polls twice from Bangarpet. The alliance is also positioning him as a Kolar native as opposed to Gowtham. 

Statistically, the BJP and JD(S) together have a larger vote share in Kolar. Workers from both parties are visibly working together. 

With Muniswamy not contesting, the BJP has addressed anti-incumbency. 

At Budikote in Bangarpet, auto driver Mohammed Imran said the JD(S) candidate is “a very nice person” and that there was nothing wrong in voting for him. “Muniswamy had intentionally harassed us all throughout his term. Now, it’s time for our community to vote for someone like Babu,” he said.

Voters like Sadamma, 75, from the Bandapalli village in Srinivaspur, want to decide their choice a few days before polling. “Since I started voting, I’ve never voted for the same party. I attend every party’s meeting,” she said. “But our family decides on whom to vote one or two days before polling,” she said.

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Published 19 April 2024, 22:10 IST

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