Thirty-two-year old Manjunath, a farmer from Byranayakanhalli, is worried. He mortgaged two acres to drill a borewell. He tried twice, going down to 1,500 and 1,800 feet. “I spent all my money, but found no water. I don’t know what to do now,” he said.
Muninanjappa, a farmer from a village near Chikballapur, has a similar story: “I spent `4 lakh to drill a borewell for my 1.5-acre grape farm. Before that I was getting water at `800 for a tanker load. We have no water for drinking or farming.”
Water is the major issue across Chikballapur parliamentary constituency, where two former chief ministers, M Veerappa Moily of the Congress and H D Kumaraswamy of the JD (S), and a former minister, B N Bachche Gowda of the BJP, are locked in a triangular contest. Vokkaligas dominate, and agriculture is the most important source of livelihood here. Many farmers like Manjunath and Muninanjappa feel their candidates, including Union Minister Moily, have done little to address the problem of water scarcity.
Being the sitting MP, Moily has to face the anti-incumbency sentiment. “He has not done anything,” says Zameer Ahmed, a businessman.
“Community leaders will soon sit and discuss who to support,” says Zameer Ahmed
The JD(S) and the BJP are holding the Congress responsible for the water crisis. The Congress in turn blames the BJP and the JD(S). “The water project did not move forward during the BJP rule. The Congress government had released `13,500 crore and laid a foundation stone for the Yettinahole project. In two years, lakes and tanks in the district would have got water,’’ Moily tells people at his campaign meetings.
His critics and even ordinary people question the timing of the foundation stone laying. It was done a day before the elections were notified. They also talk about opposition to the project from Congress leaders in Dakshina Kannada, from where the water will have to be brought.
Most election discussions, including those under the peepul trees, are water-centric.
The Congress is on the defensive and its leaders are hoping that the triangular fight will help them by dividing anti-Congress and Vokkaliga votes. Both Kumaraswamy, who enjoys some goodwill for making Chikballapur a district, and BJP’s Bachche Gowda, who is riding on the Modi wave, are from the Vokkaliga community.
In terms of its reach and spread, the Congress has an advantage. Of the eight assembly segments, Congress represents five; the JD(S) two. The BJP has one MLA.
Chief Minister Siddaramaiah is said to have personally spoken to all prominent party leaders in the district including legislators to sort out their internal differences and work for Moily. The talk is that the Congress is doing “everything possible” to ensure Moily’s victory, which also means defeating Kumaraswamy.
It, however, is not an easy task for the Congress. The JD(S) leader enjoys is known for his accessibility. “Kumaraswamy has done good work and we hope that if elected he will make efforts to solve our problems,’’ says Amarnath, a businessman in Bagepalli.
In Bagepalli, people get piped water once in 10 days and buy drinking water every day. During S M Krishna’s tenure as CM, a dam was built on the Chitravati river near the town, but it has no water.
JD(S) leaders, for their own survival, are taking the election seriously. the party has been out of power from many years, and its leaders have been taking part in many agitations, including those demanding water. That has helped them connect with voters.
They also feel that if a leader like Kumaraswamy cannot win, the party hardly has any prospects in the district. Nelamangala and Devanhalli are considered JD(S) strongholds.
But Kumaraswamy is accused of forcing by-elections on the district. He first contested the Assembly election after resigning as an MP, and is again contesting parliament elections eight months after he was elected MLA.
BJP’s Bachche Gowda is also a factor the JD(S) and Congress cannot afford to ignore. He is likely to get a good number of votes in urban areas such as Yelahanka, Hoskote, Doddballapur and Nelamangala. In rural areas, a section of Vokkaligas may back him.
Though political equations may change in favour of the Congress or JD(S), the margin of victory will be narrow. In 2009, Moily had got 3.9 lakh votes followed by Ashwathnarayan of the BJP, who got 3.39 votes and C R Manohar of the JD(S), who notched up 1.86 lakh votes.
At a glance
Of the eight Assembly segments, Congress holds five: Gouribidanur, Chikballapur, Hoskote, Doddballapur and Bagepalli. Subba Reddy, elected as an independent from Bagepalli, joined the Congress recently. JD(S) has won Devanahalli, Nelamangala, and BJP Yelahanka.
Congress has managed to minimise the anti-incumbency factor in the last few days. Having five out of eight MLAs is likely to help the party.
H D Kumaraswamy
JD(S) enjoys goodwill for creating the district. But his party is not strong in segments like Hoskote and Yelahanka. ‘Modi wave’ likely to help BJP candidate Bache Gowda, but he has little support from his community.
Total voters: 15,99,394