Lok Sabha elections 2024 | Somanna banks on smooth transfer of JD(S) votes to overcome 'outsider' tag in Tumkur

Tumkur is unique as the only constituency in Karnataka where both Lingayats and Vokkaligas - the two powerful, landowning communities in the state - are in sizeable numbers.
Last Updated : 20 April 2024, 23:48 IST
Last Updated : 20 April 2024, 23:48 IST

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As the poll pitch intensifies in Karnataka, Congress and BJP are grappling hard in a multi-layered contest in the Tumkur Lok Sabha constituency that goes to polls on April 26.

The tangible contrast between the candidates and their respective supporters sets up a mouth-watering clash. While Congress’ S P Muddahanumegowda is popular as an educated, accessible leader who is also a ‘localite,’ BJP’s V Somanna - a seasoned campaigner who has risen through the ranks over the decades - may have to put his best foot forward to combat the ‘outsider’ tag.

Of the eight Assembly segments coming under the Tumkur constituency, the fight is arithmetically even.

Congress has four MLAs, while alliance partners BJP and JD(S) have two apiece.

Congress has legislators in Gubbi, Tiptur, Koratagere and Madhugiri and BJP holds sway in Tumkur city and Tumkur Rural, while JD(S) has lawmakers in Chikkanayakanahalli and Turuvekere.

Unique phenomenon

Tumkur is unique as the only constituency in Karnataka where both Lingayats and Vokkaligas - the two powerful, landowning communities in the state - are in sizeable numbers.

In an electorate comprising 16.61 lakh voters, Congress is relying on the AHINDA votes, while BJP is hoping for a Lingayat consolidation. Thus, the support of the 3.3 lakh Vokkaliga community votes, traditionally loyal to JD(S), may be decisive.

Despite winning merely two seats, JD(S) recorded the highest vote share amongst the three parties in the eight constituencies during the 2023 Assembly elections.

The regional outfit, which accuses Congress leaders of ‘conspiring’ to defeat party supremo H D Deve Gowda when he was the Congress-JD(S) alliance candidate in 2019, faces an uphill task of transferring its votes en masse to BJP. 

However, Puttegowda, a JD(S) leader and former TP member from Turuvekere says the Vokkaligas will avenge Deve Gowda’s loss by making Somanna victorious. 

Holding a contradictory view, Tumkur city-based entrepreneur Chakravarthy Prakash, said: “There is simmering discontent amongst cadre of both BJP and JD(S). The top-level bonhomie between leaders will not heal wounds of local rivalry.” 

Insider vs outsider

Vishwanath Shetty, a trader in Hebbur village of Tumakuru taluk, is backing the Congress candidate due to ‘insider’

“Muddahanumegowda is easily accessible. However, Somanna resides far away in Bengaluru. How do we speak to him if he is our MP?” he asks.

“The insider-outsider issue is a debate of convenience. If Rahul Gandhi can leave Amethi for Wayanad, why shouldn’t Somanna contest from Tumkur,” asks Kumar (name changed) from Turuvekere taluk.

BJP has the additional challenge of consoling disgruntled leaders. Former law minister J C Madhuswamy was miffed with Somanna’s candidature. He told DH that he wouldn’t be campaigning in Tumakuru since he has been made the election incharge of Hassan and Udupi-Chikmagalur constituencies.

For G Parameshwara (Koratagere) and K N Rajanna (Madhugiri), two ministers representing Tumakuru in the Cabinet, the election is a prestige battle.

“There may be an even fight in taluks like Gubbi and Tiptur, but Congress will score big in Koratagere and Madhugiri,” said Shashidhar Toda, Congress state general secretary.

Gowda’s image vs Modi factor

Even diehard BJP adherents concede that Muddahanumegowda, who had an impressive track record as an MP (2014-19), has a better image than his opponent. However, they are banking on Prime Minister Modi’s aura to help them sail through. 

Dakshina Murthy, a medical shop owner in Gubbi taluk, said: “This election will be fought on national issues. Since we vote for Modi, it doesn’t matter if the candidate is Somanna or Bheemanna.” 

Guarantee effect

Ravi Kumar in Gubbi claimed to be an ardent Modi supporter. However, his wife Hema firmly backed the Congress because of the guarantee schemes. Same is the situation with several other women.

“The guarantee schemes may be ephemeral, but Siddaramaiah has stood by his word. I will support the Congress,” said Jayamma, an elderly street vendor in Tumakuru city. However, those from more affluent backgrounds are critical of the scheme, dubbing them as ‘freebies’.

Published 20 April 2024, 23:48 IST

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