The Congress-JD(S) alliance and the BJP were at least two hours behind schedule for their roadshows. The sun was blazing as farmer Basavegowda, 65, waited with fellow villagers for the entourage at T Hosahalli.
“We elected (chief minister) H D Kumaraswamy twice. What has he done? Have you seen the roads here?” he scowls.
And it is this sentiment that the BJP hopes to milk ahead of the November 3 bypoll for the Ramanagara Assembly constituency, the Vokkaliga heartland. The saffron party has fielded L Chandrashekhar, son of senior Congress leader C M Lingappa. He quit the Congress when the party failed to pay heed to his father’s demand that Ramanagara should not be ceded to the JD(S).
The BJP cadre is upbeat and hopes to make electoral gains given that the Congress has not been able to fully convince its workers about the alliance. However, there is also disappointment that tall Vokkaliga leaders like R Ashoka did little to improve the party’s prospects here.
Ramanagara is one of the old Mysuru districts where the rivalry between the Congress and JD(S) is legendary; there are Congress villages that have cut off ties with JD(S) villages and vice-versa. This will be the first election in four decades without a Congress-JD(S) fight. The party ceded the seat to its rival-turned-partner JD(S), which has fielded Anitha Kumaraswamy, the chief minister’s wife.
Congress’ Bengaluru Rural MP D K Suresh, brother of party loyalist D K Shivakumar, finds himself in the undesirable situation of ensuring the victory of Anitha, whom he famously defeated in the 2013 Bengaluru Rural Lok Sabha byelection. Suresh has been accompanying her during canvassing.
The Ramanagara constituency is one of the two seats that Kumaraswamy contested in the recent Assembly elections in May. He retained Channapatna and resigned from Ramanagara, necessitating this bypoll.
Kumaraswamy, who enjoys immense popularity in the district, bagged over 92,000 votes in the last election. “I’m sure I will exceed that,” Anitha said. “My husband is now the CM and people have the confidence that more work can be done if I get elected.”
The BJP’s poll narrative is woven around how the foes turned friends.
“You’ve been voting for them for years like slaves. They don’t come to your village fearing rebuke over bad roads. Has Kumaraswamy visited your village even once? They’ve joined hands for the sake of power. Stop being blind now,” BJP Ramanagara president M Rudresh told villagers.