Two young women slug it out to strike gold

Two young women slug it out to strike gold

Though it lacked a base here traditionally, the BJP has managed to inch itself into Kolar Gold Fields (KGF), once known for its strong labour and Dalit movements.

With the slow erosion of the Left and regional parties, the saffron party has fortified itself ever since its first victory in 2008. It is now bracing to clinch its third victory in this colonial mining town on May 12.    

Winning the elections here, however, is going to be no easy feat for the party, given the preparedness of the enemy camp.

Not only does the BJP have to take on a political veteran, who has thrown his hat into the ring as a JD(S) candidate for the second term, but it also has to combat the Congress, whose candidate has become a force to reckon with.

While the BJP has fielded 26-year-old Ashwini Sampangi, the Congress has given the ticket to Roopakala A M.

Both are daughters of politicians — former BJP MLA Y Sampangi and Congress MP K H Muniyappa, respectively.

The JD(S) candidate, M Backthavachalam, a two time MLA, had earlier represented the Dravidian party, ADMK.

Ashwini’s candidature comes as an afterthought. The BJP had earlier announced the KGF ticket to her father, who had successfully contested from this segment in 2008. But as Sampangi continues to face corruption charges, the party, to save itself from any embarrassment, decided against his candidature.

In 2013, too, faced with a similar dilemma, the party had fielded his mother Y Ramakka, who had emerged victorious defeating Backthavachalam.

Ashwini, who is the youngest candidate in the fray this election, stopped her education at II PUC. Mother of a 4-year-old, Ashwini has been going around the constituency promising voters that she will bring industries to the constituency, create jobs for youth and find a permanent solution to the drinking water problem.

She had trounced Roopakala in the 2016 zilla panchayat elections from Parandahalli, albeit by a very narrow margin of 153 votes. The BJP and the JD(S) had colluded together at that time.

Roopakala, a 38-year-old, made KGF her home eight years ago. Through her not-for-profit organisation, she is known to have “empowered” women of the constituency.

Though she was denied a ticket to contest the elections in 2013, she continued organising the party. She developed a bond with the women of the segment through the loan melas. More than 40,000 women associated with self-help groups have availed these loans. Today, these women and their families form her backbone, says Roopakala.

Congress leaders say that she is no more under the shadows of her father, and that she has a standing of her own.

“My father has been elected seven times — he should have tried to bring in at least one industry to KGF. Thousands of people travel to Bengaluru for work every day. It was a basic need. I want to see KGF regain its past glory. That can happen only if we set up industries and create jobs here,” she says.

Though it's a direct tussle between Ashwini and Roopakala, the BJP is on the backfoot here, as several local party leaders have now pledged support to the Congress candidate.