A stark contrast to Uttara Kannada, arecanut farms and rubber plantations line the road towards Sullia in Dakshina Kannada district. The well-irrigated land, which was famous for its paddy until 40 years ago, has shifted to high-yielding arecanut. The only reserved constituency of the total eight in Dakshina Kannada, Sullia has elected Angara S of the BJP five times consecutively.
While party and ideology trump candidate in the constituency, a strong anti-incumbency wave owing to poor infrastructure and basic amenities such as road and connectivity ails the reserved constituency. There are several issues plaguing the region. Several parts of Sullia such as Ajjavar, Aletti and Mandekolu are in constant conflict with elephants from adjoining forests. Also, people of Kemmele and Hosagadde complain of poor infrastructure and misuse of government funds meant for development of SCs/STs.
Residents of Hosagadde, a village of about 1,000 people, have threatened to boycott the upcoming election over lack of basic amenities.
“There are neither roads nor drains in the village and this is the situation in almost all the villages around Hosagadde. Each time it rains, our front yard gets flooded. For years now we have been seeking a road ... but this time around I have decided there is no point in voting,” said Nandana Shantaram, a resident of the village.
Nandana Shantaram says people who seek funds in the name of SCs/STs have failed to provide infrastructure to them. Despite losing his voice to cancer years ago, Shantaram Gowda, who worked as a professor at a law college in Sullia, has not stopped asking his MLA questions. He has petitioned the government on multiple issues over the years for his village’s development. Through signs, he conveys that a bridge to connect the village to the main road was constructed under the Congress MLA’s tenure before 1994. But, after that, the constituency became a BJP bastion. Now, anti-incumbency is seeping in against the sitting MLA.
“There is no use of keeping this as a reserved constituency. Parties should make way for younger contenders who can get work done. We won’t vote because there is no development. Let us see if the authorities take note at least now,” said Vasanth Ram, a resident of Hosagadde.
Vokkaligas make up the largest chunk of the population here. According to the 2011 Census, Sullia has a scheduled castes population of 18,215 and scheduled tribes population of 10,722.
But all is not against Angara. Despite never meeting him, people are willing to vote Angara back to power — thanks to BJP cadres who ensure that the party reaches out to remote villages.
“This road was laid during the time of Vajpayee. But, different stretches were improved when Sadananda Gowda was the Chief Minister. The current MLA has done developmental works for us... but it takes time,” said Naveen Kumar Menala, a former zilla panchayat member and a BJP worker. He claims that despite communal violence in other parts of Dakshina Kannada, Sullia had remained calm under Angara after the riots of 1989.