In caste fight, can Somanna trump Gowda in Karnataka's Tumakuru?

After losing from both Chamarajanagar and Varuna constituencies in the 2023 Assembly polls, 73-year-old Somanna is now fighting a do-or-die battle for his political existence.
Former Karnataka minister V Somanna.
Former Karnataka minister V Somanna. (File Photo)

TUMAKURU: In a fight between Veerashaiva-Lingayat leader V Somanna, the BJP-JDS alliance candidate, and SP Muddahanume Gowda, a Vokkaliga, of Congress, AHINDA communities hold the key in the Tumakuru Lok Sabha constituency, a caste conundrum.

AHINDA is Kannada acronym for the minorities, backward classes and Dalits.

After losing from both Chamarajanagar and Varuna constituencies in the 2023 Assembly polls, 73-year-old Somanna is now fighting a do-or-die battle for his political existence. He drew the first blood and got Madhuswamy, who had set the narrative of an “outsider” against Somanna, shifted as in charge of Udupi-Chikkamagaluru LS seat.

He has now poached local leaders, including Madhuswamy loyalists. He is also promptly following the advice of former CM and JDS state president HD Kumaraswamy, who had given him a list of around 250 key leaders that should be taken into confidence, including from the Kunchitiga Vokkaliga community.

As per this playbook, Somanna had reached out to backward classes and Dalits, and some of them, especially Kadugollas, seem impressed. It is the same community that former PM and JDS supremo HD Deve Gowda has promised the ST tag within three months of LS polls. When he filed the nomination paper on Wednesday, over 20,000 gathered for the rally. Considering that Somanna is a candidate of Union Home Minister Amit Shah, senior BJP leader BS Yediyurappa too attended. The former chief minister went to say that Muddahanume Gowda would lose his deposit.

Former Karnataka minister V Somanna.
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Former Karnataka minister V Somanna.
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Pricked by the statement, a section of Vokkaligas had gathered in large numbers when Gowda filed his papers on Thursday.

At the rally, Congress leaders Nikethraj Mourya and Shankarananda raised the issue of Somanna spending lavishly. “If our five guarantees work against Somanna’s money, Muddahanume Gowda would win,” remarked Shankarananda.

“(Incumbent MP) GS Basavaraju never raised his voice in the Lok Sabha for Tumakuru and now with no face to contest, Somanna has been brought in. Are we going to let the LS seat go to Somanna, an outsider? Elect the son of the soil Muddahanume Gowda,” said district in-charge minister Dr G Parameshwara, for whom it has become a prestige issue.

Being in the alliance, conversion of JDS votes in favour of Somanna will have a bearing on the results. In the 2019 elections, Deve Gowda, who was the Congress-JDS alliance candidate, lost to Basavaraju. It was then said that Muddahanume Gowda, who had to give up the seat for Deve Gowda,  joined hands with KN Rajanna, who is the cooperation minister in the present ministry, to ensure Deve Gowda’s defeat.

BJP is now making it an election issue. The saffron party is pointing out that Muddahanume Gowda, who joined their ranks, ahead of the 2023 Assembly polls, had campaigned against Congress candidates.  

The question now is whether all Congress leaders will patch up with Muddahanume Gowda wholeheartedly or not. It is to be seen whether Vokkaligas go by the words of the Deve Gowda clan or choose Muddhanume Gowda. There were murmurs that Rajanna could leave Muddahanume Gowda in the lurch as he is busy with the Lok Sabha elections in Hassan, which he is in charge of.

Muddahanume Gowda, who was an MP from  2014 to 2019, claimed, “I have delivered goods as an MP by raising the issue of copra price crash in the Lok Sabha, besides saving the erstwhile HMT watch factory land from grabbers where the ISRO will soon start its operation soon.”

In the last election, BJP raised the issue of Deve Gowda meting out injustice to Tumakuru by avoiding releasing Hemavathi river water from Hassan in 2019. This time, the saffron party is harping on Deputy Chief Minister and Water Resources Minister DK Shivakumar implementing the Express canal project to draw water from Tumakuru to the Bengaluru Rural LS constituency, from where his brother DK Suresh is contesting.

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