Poll in Tumakuru centered on water, caste and land

In stark contrast to the countrywide poll narrative on national security and patriotism, the electoral fight in Tumakuru Lok Sabha constituency is centred on River water, Land acquisition and caste fight within Vokkaligas.

The sharing of river water—often a dispute between two states, has now left farmers of two districts—Tumakuru and Hassan at loggerheads. Even though the genesis of the dispute dates back to 1980s, the issue has been making a sound whenever the polls are around the corner. However, the politics over sharing of water from River Hemavathi—a tributary of Cauvery, has reached a crescendo with former PM HD Deve Gowda who sways control over Hassan choosing to contest from Tumakuru.

The opposition BJP, ever since the announcement of Deve Gowda’s candidature, has blamed Gowda of depriving the district of Hemavathi water. “Even though Tumakuru was allotted with 25 TMC of water, Gowda and his son HD Revanna have come on the way of getting our share. In fact, Revanna supported by Deve Gowda sat on a protest to stop releasing of water to Tumakuru,” says Chandrashekhar, a farmer and supporter of BJP in Gubbi. Be it the candidate Basavaraju or former MLA Suresh Gowda, the BJP leaders have been charing the JDS.

“Even when there were bounteous rains, they let water to drain into the sea but refused to release it to Tumakuru. What our farmers have done to Hassan? Can’t we question this injustice?” former BJP MLA Suresh Gowda charged Deve Gowda at a rally in Tumakuru Rural on Wednesday. However, the JDS leaders have been refuting these allegations categorically.

“It was Deve Gowda who ensured water to Tumakuru and he ensured that works on the canal are on track whenever he was in power,” said Rangadhama, a JDS supporter from Turuvekere. But the BJP supporters refuse to accept the theory as they further question on social media, “Why did Deve Gowda stop work on the canal when he became CM? Why did he order the suspension of Chief Engineer Rathna Naik? Why did he block the canal by dumping debris during his CM tenure? When the canal be expanded to accommodate 4,000 cusecs, Why is Gowda favouring Express Canal to Ramnagar? Is it because Ramanagar is also held by their family?

In response to the allegations, Deve Gowda in his campaign at Tiptur and Madhugiri on Wednesday said, “I was the PWD minister when the work on Bagur-Navile tunnel was underway. As the work gripped people in panic and the government was mulling to wind up, I had convinced Chief Engineer Balekundri who completed the work to ensure that water reaches Tumakuru. I had only gone to Turuvekere to inaugurate water supply. Nobody can question my commitment to irrigation and drinking water schemes.”

Similarly, the land acquisition for the four-laning of NH-206 has also been brought into the election landscape. Protesting against disproportionate land value for the farmers’ land, several farmers from Gubbi, Turuvekere, Chikkanayakanahalli and Tiptur are up against the leaders. In some of the villages, people have posted ‘NOTA’ posters and gheroing the leaders who visit their villages for campaigning.

While the entire district is vertically divided between Lingayats and Vokkaligas, the Vokkaligas are further upset with the Gowda family and JDS over their ‘Divide and Rule’ politics within the community. “Tumakuru district is dominated by the Kunchitiga sub-caste of Vokkaliga community. While the community has been helping the party establish base across the district, the top leaders have been biased towards the community. While they (JDS) need our votes to get elected, they choose leaders from the other sub-castes to enjoy power. But the Congress has always honoured Kunchitigas,” explained a beleaguered leader who quit JDS and joined BJP on Thursday in Tumakuru. The community leaders also alleged that Deve Gowda was the reason behind the government's efforts to include the Kunchitiga sub-caste into OBC category.

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Poll in Tumakuru centered on water, caste and land

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