KANAKAPURA: The heat and dust kicked up by the Mekedatu padayatra seems to have settled down, and the opinion among the locals along the route is that the march, led by Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president DK Shivakumar, was nothing short of an election rally.
The padayatra, which started at the Cauvery Sangama, reached Ramangara before the Karnataka High Court rapped the administration for allowing the march, forcing the Congress to abort it.
The people here drew many similarities between the padayatra and an election rally -- the pomp and show, and generous spending, and outsiders suddenly descending to bulk up the yatra. They are also guesstimating what it must have cost the party.
While the older generation is wondering about the Mekedatu project, the common talk here is about Shivakumar's expansive growth in the area and many anecdotes about him -- both in favour and against.
"It was like an election rally we have never witnessed here. All his supporters cashed in on it, while the others were ignored. During elections, they would push us to take cash though we ignored them," rued a woman in Doddalahalli, Shivakumar's home town.
"Yava nakshatradalli huttiddano gottilla (we don't know which star's blessing he was born with), he is so daring and was not bothered about going to jail. He has lived like that... Why should one live long without making any mark?" remarked octogenarian Thimmavva, who runs a petty shop and has seen Shivakumar's phenomenal growth.
But the High Court pulling up Shivakumar for the padayatra, in defiance of COVID-19 protocol, has been taken note of too, and though illiterate, the people here are up to date on the political goings-on. "You know the court rapped him, following which he was forced to stop the padayatra," Madamma said with sarcasm.
Not just this, opposition leader Siddaramaiah skipping the padayatra on the first day, and Shivakumar fumbling on various occasions, starting with slipping on a rock at Sangama, are being joked about too.
The people, who never used to mask up even when the cases began to go up in the taluk, have started wearing masks. "We are afraid as outsiders from Bengaluru and even as far as Bagalkot have entered our region, and may spread the virus," remarked Narayana.
Most of the people are either suspicious or skeptical about implementation of the Mekedatu balancing reservoir project across the Cauvery. "It is good that Shivakumar held a padayatra as it will help us get Cauvery water for drinking. But will Tamil Nadu let us implement it?" asked Mohan, a powerloom owner in Kanakapura town.
Free fuel for bikes
The youths here got their motorbikes filled with free fuel and are naturally impressed, alleged Shivarenuka, a resident of Doddalahalli and Shivakumar's arch rival on his home turf. "Since the Congress got wind that its popularity was waning, they took up the padayatra to organise the party workers. A huge amount was invested and in Doddalahalli alone, coupons of Rs 300 each were issued to 1,000 youths to get their two wheelers filled with fuel at a local petrol pump every day of the padayatra," he alleged.