Karnataka: In BJP bastion Kodagu, a leaning towards Congress

In South Kodagu, including Srimangala, Kutta, Gonikoppal and surrounding regions, a large population is in favour of Congress because of Ponnanna.
A tribal settlement near Balugodu in Kodagu district
A tribal settlement near Balugodu in Kodagu district Photo | Express

MADIKERI: Once a BJP stronghold, Kodagu’s political stand has changed in the recent past. Public opinion and voter mood reveals a neck-and-neck fight between the two national parties.

The district has over 4.5 lakh voters. While the elite section of residents and a large number of Hindu middle-class residents wish to continue their support for BJP, minorities and backward class voters, including many tribes, have vouched to support the Congress.

Kodavas, who support the ‘nationalist’ ideology, have always favoured the BJP. Nevertheless, opinions collected across the district show a considerable number of Kodavas are in favour of Congress MLA AS Ponnanna. In South Kodagu, including Srimangala, Kutta, Gonikoppal and surrounding regions, a large population is in favour of Congress because of Ponnanna.

Many small growers too are likely to favour the Congress. “The Congress manifesto assures MSP and loan waiver, alongside implementation of the Swaminathan report. Small growers have not benefited from the BJP,” shared Harish Madappa, a grower from Srimangala. Several youngsters in South Kodagu are also fans of the local MLA.

A majority of tribes are against the BJP as they allege exploitation by the party, and show a leaning towards Ponnanna. “BJP is involved in the privatization of forests, leasing of encroached government lands to the encroachers and plans to change the Constitution. Exploitation of tribes is increasing and we hardly get justice,” said JT Kalinga, a Jenukuruba leader.

The tribes have vouched to favour the Congress MLA, saying that he has attended to their needs even as homes are being sanctioned to them after years of Independence. Nevertheless, a section of tribes is also likely to be influenced by last-minute bribes.

Meanwhile, Muslim voters continue to back the Congress, despite feeling ignored. “Congress workers are only concentrating on the Vokkaliga belt and have not approached us for votes. But we have limited options and are forced to support Congress,” said Ismail, a resident of Kandakere.

Apart from minorities across Ponnampet, the rest of the voters have vouched for their support for the BJP-JDS alliance. In Madikeri, voters largely favour the BJP, and say, “No matter who gives us freebies, we will choose Modi at the Centre.”

The Gowda voters from Bhagamandala, Appangala, Avanduru and surrounding regions, and the Kushalnagar belt are unmoved by the ‘Vokkaliga’ card play of the Congress. Across Somwarpet, it’s a close race as JDS votes might turn in favour of Congress because of a Gowda candidate. In Napoklu, several youngsters are actively involved in campaigning alongside MLA Ponnanna. However, it is said that these workers discreetly support BJP at the Centre.

Overall, it is ‘Modi-wave’ versus ‘Ponnana-wave’ in major parts of South Kodagu, and BJP is likely to do well in the northern belt of the district. While it is tough for Congress to get the expected lead with only minority and backward class votes, the vote count of BJP will not be the lion’s share.

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