Chikballapur is just an hour’s drive away from the IT hub of Bengaluru, yet it is a picture of backwardness. While the drone of the latest aircrafts reach this place, development does not. Migration is one of its major concerns here as most youngsters ply to Bengaluru every day for work. The new district, formed in 2007, lacks essential facilities. Except for the National Highway-44 that snakes through the city, there are no proper roads, there is lack of drinking water, no underground drains and sanitation and poor public transport services.
S Mahalingappa, a restauranteur, who runs a popular eatery in Devanahalli, said, “Water crisis here is a serious issue and so is the lack of underground drainage. There are assurances made during every election season, but after the results are out, it is all forgotten.”
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Anjanappa, a farmer, and his widowed mother Akkaiyamma concur. They said that they have been hapless due to the water crisis here. Anjanappa’s brother Venkatramanappa said that agriculture is not profitable either due to pests and insufficient procurement prices among other reasons. The brothers cultivate a 5 acre plot but the returns are miniscule.
In 2014, the constituency had witnessed a fight between the three biggies - BJP, JD(S) and Congress. This time it is a straight fight between Congress and BJP. Both the contestants are veterans. Congress candidate is former chief minister and sitting MP Veerappa Moily while BJP candidate is former minister Bache Gowda. While Moily is 79 years old, Bache Gowda is 77.
Incidentally, it was the same two men who fought the 2014 polls, but Moily won by about 9,000 votes. This time, it is a straight fight. If the vote transfer happens from JD(S) to Congress then Moily has a chance of winning. In 2014, Moily polled 4.24 lakh votes, while Bache Gowda got 4.15 lakh and JD(S) candidate HD Kumaraswamy, who is now the Chief Minister, polled 3.46 lakh.
Anil Yadav, block-level JD(S) leader in Devanahalli, said, “Congress has five MLAs and JD(S) has two while BJP has only one MLA in the constituency. While it looks like odds are in favour of the coalition, the local support does not indicate the same.”A political analyst said, Vokkaligas are an influential community here and are in sizeable numbers.
Bache Gowda is a Vokkaliga while Moily is from the Devadiga caste - a non-Vokkaliga. Also, Bache Gowda is local while Moily is from Dakshina Kannada. When you consider this, it becomes clear that Bache Gowda, in spite of BJP having just one MLA, has a greater traction. But then again, over the years the constituency has seen a secular voting pattern and not a communal one. So the election could swing in any which way.
BJP needs better booth-level penetration in the entire constituency since the coalition has a strong reach at the booth-level here. Political analyst B S Murthy pointed out, “Anti-incumbency usually costs a candidate about 15-20 per cent of the votes. It remains to be seen how it will affect the coalition candidate.’’
Prime Minister Narendra Modi enjoys support here, especially in the urban areas and among youngsters and this could benefit Bache Gowda. One needs to factor in the anti-incumbency against Moily, who has been MP for two consecutive terms. Proactive administration at the local level is what people are looking for.