As Tumkur acquires celeb status and gears up for a direct contest between JD(S) patriarch and former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda and BJP candidate G S Basavaraj, voters in the constituency are anticipating a permanent solution for agrarian and industrial crises, brought about by a scarcity of water, electricity and basic infrastructure in industrial areas.
Tumkur is known as ‘Kalpataru Naadu’, or the ‘land of coconuts’, a crop grown widely here. With higher education institutions, including those owned by Siddaganga Mutt, the district is home to thousands of students from various parts of the country. A naturally rich district, with abundant iron ore and minerals such as limestone, graphite, quartz, silversand, corundum, dolomite, clay and soapstone, it has developed into a major industrial hub. Yet, citizens, farmers and industrialists feel that basic requirements have not been met, and hinder the growth of the district.
Water scarcity kills coconuts
The district has 10 taluks — Tumakuru, Koratagere, Sira, Gubbi, Pavagada, Turuvekere, Kunigal, Madhugiri, Tiptur and Chikkanayakanahalli — but none has sufficient water supply for drinking, agriculture or industrial purposes.While coconut is a major horticulture crop in the district, especially in Tiptur, Turuvekere, Chikkanayakanahalli, Tumakuru and Gubbi, growers are incurring losses due to pest attack and fluctuating prices.
Vishwanath, a coconut grower from Biligere village in Tiptur taluk, told TNIE that many of his coconut trees had withered due to pest attack and scanty rainfall. “It is difficult to hit water even after drilling borewells for 1,000 feet. There is no other source of water,” he said.
Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha leader B S Devaraj said that coconut cultivation is dwindling due to water scarcity. “The coconuts we grow are not fetching a good price. This is due to competition from Kerala and Tamil Nadu, as desiccated coconut powder factories are purchasing coconuts from there. In Tiptur market, the price of copra is around Rs 16,000 per quintal. The price was Rs 12,000 a few days ago,” he said. Pujan, owner of a desiccated coconut powder factory, said demand for the powder has fallen, resulting in heavy loss.
Manufacturing industries, too, are gripped by water and electricity crises. “The Tumakuru Industrial Node is being developed at Vasanthanarasapura, under Chennai-Bengaluru Industrial Corridor Project, and will boost industrial growth. There is a lack of drinking water and uninterrupted power supply in industrial areas. Industrialists are purchasing water as the groundwater level has depleted,” H B Chandrashekhar, president, Tumkur District Chamber of Commerce & Industry said.
Kaki Mallaiah, a retired official from Koratagere, said scarcity of water has always been a poll issue. On national issues, an ex-serviceman said all governments at the Centre do well on the national security front. “I fought the 1971 war and retired as a Naik in 1985. I worked in Jammu and Kashmir and Pathankot too. I have seen that there is no compromise on security. All governments protect our country,” he said.
Voters say the constituency will see a direct clash between Gowda and four-time parliamentarian Basavaraj. While Gowda enjoys the support of Vokkaligas, Basavaraj is a Lingayat, which is also a major caste. “Caste plays a major role here. Development issues come next,” says Prakash K, a resident of Tumakuru.
While BJP has won four Assembly segments, JD(S) has won three. Basavaraj had won on a Congress ticket thrice, but later joined BJP. Both Gowda and Basavaraj enjoy the support of their communities, besides minorities, Dalits and Adivasis. Now, there are rumblings of discontent, with sitting Congress MP Muddahanume Gowda readying to file his papers as an Independent.While BJP is hoping to ride a Narendra Modi wave, Congress and JD(S) workers are focusing on coalition government’s contributions.