Chitradurga city is non-descript. While it suffers from the same ills that all other Tier-2 cities do, like bad roads, growing traffic snarls, lack of regular drinking water and tourism facilities, the people here are losing faith in elections. For the people of Chitradurga, politics is secondary. All they crave is the development that has overtaken other cities in Karnataka. They have also been demanding irrigation facilities for several years, but somehow, they feel that the central part of the state is being ignored. Despite the city’s historical past and proximity to the state capital, it has failed to get any importance.
The district is mainly dependent on agriculture, horticulture and small-time businesses related to farming and retail. The people cultivate arecanut, maize and ragi, but the lack of irrigation facilities is testing the patience of farmers. The ongoing Upper Bhadra Project promises water to parts of Chitradurga, especially Holalkere, which is known as ‘Are Malnadu’ (semi-Western Ghats area). The water project will mainly benefit people of Tumakuru, Chikkamagaluru and some parts of Chitradurga.
The Vani Vilas Sagar Dam, located in Hiriyur and known as the first dam built in Karnataka by Sir M Visvesvaraya, is unable to meet the drinking water and irrigation needs of the district, due to the construction of check dams in the upper streams of the Vedavathi river. This has resulted in water scarcity for the past five to six years, and farmers are now banking on the Upper Bhadra Project.
Farmers in Holalkere are now concentrating on saving their arecanut trees and land and are dependent on water tankers. A tanker of water costs anywhere between Rs 4,000 and Rs 5,000, and this business is more lucrative than the others.
This has resulted in excessive pumping out of groundwater from any borewell that has water. Most of the water supplied to Holalkere is from neighbouring villages, as most of its borewells have run dry. This is not just the case of Holalkere but most parts of Chitradurga, where the water table is dipping. Personal reputation vs Modi wavePolitical pundits here point out that sitting Congress MP B N Chandrappa will be banking on his personal reputation, while the BJP, which has decided to field Anekal Narayanaswamy, is banking on a Modi wave and five sitting MLAs from Chitradurga, Hiriyur, Molakalmuru, Holalkere and Hosadurga for votes. The Congress and JD(S) together are banking on MLAs from Challakere, Pavagada and Sira.
The BJP is already milking the February air strikes by the Indian Air Force, and drumming up nationalistic feelings and awareness about India’s global image. Several RSS members and BJP workers are holding meetings in villages across Chitradurga, convincing people about Modi’s leadership. “It’s a tough fight between two national parties. If Congress wins, it’s because of the local candidate. If BJP wins, it’s because of the Modi wave. But the general feeling is that Chitradurga has been ignored when it comes to development and regional balance,” said Shivanna S, a political worker from Chitradurga.
Chitradurga being a Reserved SC constituency since 2009, the candidates will be dependent on votes from various SC communities. Since 2009, both the BJP and Congress have won one election each. But this time, the Congress-JD(S) alliance may make BJP work harder for a victory.
Unhappy vote banks
The Bhovis, Muslims and Vokkaligas form big vote banks in Chitradurga. But this time, members of the Bhovi community, which Hosadurga MLA Goolihatti Shekhar represents, had objected to their community member not getting a ticket. However, the differences were resolved and the BJP announced a candidate from the same community as the sitting Congress MP.
“Chitradurga district has major mutts belonging to all communities. The mutts were established for the sake of providing education to needy kids. Despite a good educational atmosphere, the city has not progressed, and there aren’t enough funds to develop tourism spots around Chitradurga. The Chandravalli and Adu Malleswara areas around Chitradurga have great tourism potential but have been ignored by successive governments,” Shivanna said.
Ravikumar Hollakere, from Holalkere, said that voters may mostly go with the party and not candidate. “Voters who are in favour of the BJP will vote for the party leadership. But with Congress and JD(S), it could be a different equation. People here are demanding development and irrigation projects,” he said.