Both the BJP and the Congress have fielded Vokkaligas in Bangalore North, and that has led to a curious sub-division of loyalties, with some saying Sadananda Gowda (BJP) is a coastal Vokkaliga and not a local one.
C Narayanaswamy of the Congress enjoys support in the rural pockets of this constituency, while Sadananda Gowda is endorsed by urban voters who want to give Modi a chance.
Congress policies, particularly chief minister Siddramaiah’s governance, are also coming up for discussion wherever people meet.
The Aam Admi Party (AAP) is a new entry into the arena. Vokkaligas constitute about 25 per cent of the electorate, and any candidate who garners a majority of their votes is expected to win.
Debates about whom the Vokkaligas will support are raging across the Bangalore North constituency, but one thing is certain: they are not going to vote as a block.
P V Ramana Reddy, a Vokkaliga from Malleswaram, said, “After C Narayanaswamy won the primaries and became the Congress candidate, the mood has changed. We had decided to support Sadananda Gowda, who is popular. But we are in a dilemma after Narayanaswamy entered the fray: he is a resident of our constituency and is easily accessible to us.”
Srinivasaiah, also a Vokkaliga, says both Narayanaswamy and Sadananda Gowda enjoy a good rapport with the community.
Narayanaswamy seems set to win a good chunk of votes in the newly added areas of the constituency. He belongs to the Marasu Vokkaliga community, present in large numbers across the constituency. Sadananda Gowda is banking on anti-UPA votes. Irrespective of who wins the seat, this will be one of the most closely contested elections in Karnataka.
While the Modi factor seems to have united the Muslims against the BJP, some in the community are unhappy that the Congress denied veteran Jaffer Sharief a ticket.
Abdul Nazeer, a voter from KR Puram, said, “I would prefer to vote for the JD(S) as its candidate Abdul Azeem is from our community. Jaffer Sharief had worked for the party all his life and is seen as the tallest leader of our community, but they haven’t given him a seat.”
Unlike Nazeer, many Muslim voters Express spoke to were determined to vote for the Congress.
The JD(S) candidate Abdul Azeem enjoys considerable support in some areas of Mahalakshmi Layout and Pulikeshinagar assembly constituencies, both represented by the JD(S).
R Babu, a resident of Kamalanagar, said, “We normally vote for the candidate our MLA recommends as we approach him for everything. Moreover, as the assistant commissioner of police, Azeem had solved some important cases in Basaveshwarnagar and Peenya”.
Many voters like the anti-corruption pitch of the AAP but lack confidence in the party’s abilities. But Rizwan, an auto driver from KR Puram, said, “I will vote for them and I am also convincing my friends to vote for them.”
He believes the Congress and the BJP are using people as caste and religion vote banks. “AAP is the only party that will work to protect the interests of common citizens,” he said. But some voters said the AAP had shirked its responsibility of running the Delhi government.
The Congress, BJP and the JD(S) have huge footprints in the constituency. While the Congress represents KR Puram, Byatrayanpura and Yeshwanthpuram assembly constituencies, the BJP represents Dasarahalli, Malleswaram and Hebbal. The the JD(S) represents Pulakeshinagar and Mahalakshmi Layout.
Bangalore North Lok Sabha constituency was a Congress fortress till the BJP wrested it in 2004. Therefore, the candidates are confident are making all out efforts to woo fence sitters and first time voters.
B’lore North LS SEAT Candidates’ strengths
Sadananda Gowda is trying to cash in on his clean image as chief minister, his Vokkaliga roots and the ‘Modi wave’
C Narayanaswamy is banking on his image as an upright local, his Vokkaliga roots and his accessibility to voters
Abdul Azeem is harping on his reputation as a former super cop. He hopes JD(S) workers and minority voters will see him through
Babu Mathew is riding on the anti-corruption pitch of the Aam Aadmi Party
Bangalore North in Numbers
Candidates in fray: 14
Main contenders: C Narayanaswamy (Congress), D V Sadananda Gowda (BJP), Prof Babu Mathew (AAP), Abdul Azeem (JDS)
Voters: 21,43,890, Men: 11,30,091, Women: 10,13,799
In 2009: DB Chandre Gowda (BJP) defeated Jaffer Sharief (Congress) by 59,665 votes