MYSURU: Old Mysuru, the traditional battleground of straight fights between old rivals Janat Dal (Secular) and Congress, is witnessing swift political changes, turning it into the most bitterly fought belt this time.
There is a possibility of a triangular contest, with the BJP leaving no stone unturned to challenge its rivals. The region, with three chief ministerial candidates, is billed as the key to the corridors of power. All three parties, keen to win the Vokkaliga-dominated region, believe that whoever wins Old Mysuru will win Karnataka.
The 52 seats (other than Bengaluru city) in Kolar, Chikkaballapur, Bengaluru Rural, Tumakuru, Ramanagara, Mandya, Mysuru, Chamarajnagar and Hassan districts are crucial for the BJP, Congress and JDS. Independent MP Sumalatha Ambareesh, who has considerable goodwill in the region as the wife of popular star Ambareesh, extended her support to the BJP.
Judging the importance of the region, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah held road shows and addressed rallies to catalyse the cadre and send a message that it may be the beginning, but it has a bigger plan to win at least 35 seats.
The party has rightfully claimed credit for reopening the historic MySugar factory and Pandavapura Cooperative Sugar Factory. The JDS was the first to hit the streets to consolidate its hold in the Vokkaliga heartland. At 93, party supremo H D Deve Gowda is leading the charge, and former chief minister H D Kumaraswamy’s Pancharatna Yatra has entered the hinterland.
There is a possibility of Kumaraswamy again emerging kingmaker if the JDS gets more than 40 seats and consolidates its support base among farmers, who still recall the farm loan waiver. But it remains a do-or-die battle for Kumaraswamy, as his party will come under threat if it fails to put up a good show in Old Mysuru.
The JDS is also trying to shore up its minority votes and is making special efforts to see that it is not seen as the BJP’s B team.
For the Congress, former CM Siddaramaiah’s political battle has turned into a prestige issue. Siddaramaiah, who lost from Chamundeshwari, will have to prove his mettle this time by scoring big in the region, as he is contesting from his traditional Varuna constituency. Special efforts are visible to woo the dominant Vokkaliga community, which had largely remained loyal to the JDS.
The Congress is also banking on Siddaramaiah’s Ahinda consolidation, minorities, and other smaller communities. The party hopes to gain from the fact that both CM aspirants -- Siddaramaiah and D K Shivakumar -- are from the same region. The possible division of Vokkaliga votes is being challenged by Shivakumar, who is making an emotional appeal to elect a Vokkaliga as chief minister again.
These developments are throwing open a triangular contest for the first time in many of the seats. For the BJP, a win is a compulsion, ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, as the momentum created by the assembly elections could prove beneficial next year.