BENGALURU: Ever since Bangalore Rural Lok Sabha constituency was carved out, in 2008, through the delimitation exercise, it has been a Congress stronghold, barring the opening innings of the JD(S). This time too, all things equal, the Congress, or rather the JD(S)-Congress coalition candidate, is expected to romp home with a good margin.
The coalition, however, is taking no chances. Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy and Congress strongman DK Shivakumar-both MLAs from the district-are working in tandem, with no whiff of an underlying tension, seen elsewhere.So much so that the party workers from both sides claim the coalition candidate, DK Suresh, would actually reap benefits of the aggregated votes of the Congress and the JD(S).
If Kumaraswamy was the first to represent this seat in 2009 right after the delimitation, Suresh had comfortably won it in 2013 by-polls and later in 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Despite the one Bangalore South assembly segment—a BJP stronghold for the last 15 years—falling within the Bangalore Rural Lok Sabha constituency, Suresh has successively won it twice, aided by the massive caste consolidation in the rural heartland.
Once a JD(S) turf, Congress’ Shivakumar was the first to shatter the Gowda’s hold over the seat, by bringing in his brother DK Suresh in 2009, then a political novice. Now, Suresh has the advantage of both, making it rather difficult for his BJP opponent, Ashwath Narayan Gowda, who’s heavily banking on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity quotient.
Earlier known as Kanakapura, this seat was ironically known for the intense battles between, foes-turned -alliance partners, Congress and JD(S). This is a unique Lok Sabha constituency. Two of its assembly segments – Bangalore South and RR Nagar – are highly literate, with a large number of software professionals. But sandwiched between the purely rural segment, the techie votes hardly matter. As a result, the urban voters remained indifferent to the voting.
A massive road show held by Suresh in Anekal, on Tuesday had the candidate and his powerful brother Shivakumar going around villages and the urban pockets, taking stock of developmental projects. Karthik, a software professional, quipped, “Till date, I have never seen this two-term MP in our area. What has he done for the city? Neither are the political parties interested and nor can we expect anything from them. They have ignored us.”
Contrastingly, Prashanth, a worker in a silk reeling unit in Ramanagara, admittedly a Kumaraswamy fan, says, “The CM has done a lot for the district. We have always voted for the Congress in LS polls and for JD(S) in the assembly polls. This time too, we will repose our faith in the sitting MP. He is accessible and listens to our problems.”
According to political analyst Ratnakar Joshi, a blunder was committed through the delimitation exercise in 2008 as two urban segments were added to a Lok Sabha seat, comprising of rural Vokkaligas.“This exercise has proven to be a nemesis for the urban voters whose aspirations and needs are different from that of the rural segments. This is an aberration that needs correction. With political parties ignoring the two city segments, the voting percentages are dismal,” he said.
On the flip side, the Vokkaliga bastion of Kanakapura, Anekal, Magadi, Channapatna and Ramanagara have backed their community and powerful leaders, in this case the two DK brothers, have reaped the benefits.
The BJP, however, hopes to cash in on the power of the Modi factor to consolidate the urban vote, and use it as a springboard to fan the anti-incumbency sentiments against the Congress candidate. “We are confident of winning the elections,” says BJP’s Ashwath Narayan Gowda. Former Congress minister, C P Yogeshwar, who had worked for Suresh in 2014 elections, and is now with the BJP, is expected to be the booster.
Sitting MP has done close to nothing: Ashwath Narayan (BJP)
How is the response from voters?
We are campaigning aggressively and are getting good response across the constituency.
Bangalore Rural is considered the Congress bastion.
People are unhappy with the MP. Apart from the PM Modi factor across the country, we can also see a wave against the Congress party and the MP.
What are the issues in the constituency?
There are several issues. The sitting MP has not made any effort to implement central government projects that are implemented in other parts of the state. They only talk about projects during elections, but no work has started. For example, the Sriranga drinking water scheme in Kunigal, Manchinbele dam and Mekedatu projects. Also, the price of silk has fallen drastically, and the state government and MP have not helped farmers. Last year, mango prices dropped to ` 3 per kg, and the situation was so bad that farmers could not even shift decomposed mangoes. Drinking water is also an issue. In many places in Anekal, people get water only once a week.
Do you think you will have some advantage in three assembly segments in Bangalore Urban?
Yes, that helps. In the constituency, 16 lakh voters are in urban areas, while nine lakh are in rural areas, which also include semi-urban areas and villages. The big advantage for me is that senior leader CP Yogeshwara, who was with Suresh in the last elections, is with us now.
How confident are you of winning?
Honestly, on the first day, I had some doubts, but as I started meeting people and party workers, I gained confidence. There is a huge undercurrent in favour of the BJP. The pro-Modi wave is there even in small villages. We have 4.5 lakh new voters, which also helps us.
No Modi wave, it’s only DK wave here: DK Suresh
How is the response from voters?
I have been campaigning in the constituency for the last 10 days and the response this time is much better compared to 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The support from coalition partner JD(S) will also help us get more votes.
Do you see Modi factor working against you in urban pockets of the constituency?
There is no Modi wave. In our constituency, it is only DK wave. We have full confidence that the works we have taken up in the constituency will help us.
BJP candidate says you have not done any work. Is anti-incumbency factor working against you?
There is no anti-incumbency factor as I have done good work. In fact, the Modi government has not done anything for farmers and the common people. People who are making allegations against me do not know about the schemes we have implemented in the constituency.
What are the issues on which you are seeking votes?
We are highlighting achievements of the UPA government, Siddaramaiah government and also the present coalition government. We are also talking about initiatives that I had taken in the constituency for improving infrastructure, filling up tanks, implementation of MGNREGA scheme, providing clean drinking water units in the constituency and many other initiatives. In fact, I was the first to provide clear drinking water units in the state after I was elected as MP the first time.
Will Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy and other JD(S) leaders campaign for you?
Anitha Kumaraswamy has campaigned for two days in Ramanagara and Channapatna and Chief Minister Kumaraswamy campaigned in RR Nagar in Bengaluru. Kumaraswamy will campaign in Kunigal in Tumkur district, which is part of the LS constituency. We are all working together.