Though the people of Koppal are ready to vote in yet another election, their problems have found no place as poll issues among parties. Their demands to get Krishna water for irrigation, de-silt Tungabhadra dam at Munirabad and resolve the grievances of labourers in hundreds of rice mills have not been met since the 2009 elections. Yet, the election here looks as though it will be fought on caste lines.
Given the current political scenario, the battle for Koppal Lok Sabha constituency is evenly poised between Basavaraj Hitnal of the Congress and Sanganna Karadi of the BJP. Karadi belongs to the majority Lingayat community whereas Hitnal is a Kuruba and handpicked by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. The JD(S) has not fielded a candidate.
Winning Seat Prestige Issue for Siddu
In the 1991 polls, Siddaramaiah had contested from here and lost by a slender margin of 11,197. So, wresting the seat from the BJP has become a prestige issue for him. He is largely banking on AHINDA (a Kannada acronym for minorities, backward classes and dalits) as Kurubas and Muslims too have a sizeable vote share in the constituency. According to political pundits, Koppal will be a perfect test case for his AHINDA politics.
Though the chief minister has thrown his weight behind Hitnal, the Congress leadership is a bit nervous over the latter’s poor acceptance among voters, especially in Sindhanur, Maski and Shiraguppa Assembly segments as they fall in the neighbouring districts of Raichur and Bellary. Six of the eight Assembly segments are held by the Congress, and the chief minister is said to have given strict instructions to partymen to strive for Hitnal’s victory.
However, resentment prevails among voters over Hitnal’s attitude and a common charge against him is that he is not accessible. Such adverse sentiments could favour Karadi as he is more acceptable due to his sober approach.
“Karadi always listens to public grievances. But, in delivery of promises both are poor performers,” said Channappagouda Kalakanagoudra of Yalaburga.
Given the political equation, BJP might find it tough to retain the seat though it has fielded a Panchamsali Lingayat candidate.
Apart from playing the caste card, the party is heavily banking on the Modi wave. After Modi’s rally in Koppal last week, he has become popular in both urban and rural areas of the constituency, especially among youths.
As Kurubas and minorities are expected to vote for the Congress, the BJP’s strategy is to somehow divide the Kuruba votes. Though the party is claiming to be succeeding in its mission, it could prove ineffective as Siddaramaiah is likely to campaign here before the polls.
Will Modi Wave Polarise Votes?
Minorities in Gangavati town are skeptical about Modi. Any overemphasis on him by the BJP could polarise voters here, which could benefit the Congress. So, the BJP is treading cautiously and wooing the leaders of the JD(S) to neutralise the impact.
Sriramulu Factor to Help BJP
One person who can help the BJP candidate sail through is Sriramulu, who enjoys a sizeable following here. Voters feel that Sriramulu could spoil Hitnal’s chances.
His charisma could help sway not only tribal voters, but also Telugu-speaking voters towards the BJP, said a youth in Gangavati. Money power is likely to play an equally important role as the memories of voters are still fresh on how political parties spent money to buy votes in the last election.
A youth associated with a party in Kukanur village said: “Real campaigning will start from April 15 evening. Despite claiming overwhelming support among voters, no party wants to take the risk. Money power is likely to play a larger role this time too.”