|HOME | ELECTION | CONSTITUENCY|
|September 4, 1999||
J H Patel stoops, yet may not conquer
George Iype in Channagiri
Chief Minister Jayadevappa Halappa Patel knows well that there is only one spoilsport in the Channagiri assembly constituency in this election: J H Patel himself.
That must be why he begins his morning campaign by admitting his failures.
"I could not repair these roads. But I have been chief minister of Karnataka and I have to look after the whole state, not just this constituency," the man whom Channagiri has sent to the state assembly four times admits.
Some 200-odd people - most of them coffee plantation workers - listen to Patel passively. Halfway through his speech, some walk away while others whisper among themselves. But Patel goes on accusing the Congress party of being corrupt and inefficient and terms Sonia Gandhi a foreigner and an Italian.
Not many in Channagiri, in Davangere district, are convinced by Patel's admissions of failures and his charges against the Congress. Everywhere he goes, there are similar complaints from the local people: he has not nurtured the constituency despite being the chief minister.
Hence, Patel's vociferous speech has few takers these days. "We all know that he will not become chief minister now," a roadside coffee vendor who is doing a brisk sale offers.
As he hops from village to village, the chief minister is aware of the stark realities that confronts him. There are no roads for his motorcade to pass over and people complain to him that they have no drinking water. A government lower primary school in Santhbennur Hobli fell down in rains last month. But the chief minister did not have the patience and the time to visit the place.
"He comes here only during elections. He is enjoying life in Bangalore," comments a youngster.
For many in Channagiri, Patel is no more the chief minister. Hundreds of his erstwhile supporters feel that the chief minister is a villain because they never expected him to go in for an alliance with the Lok Shakti and the Bharataiya Janata Party.
But, ironically, two weeks into the campaign, Patel is facing an uphill task in Channagiri, thanks to the BJP.
The chief minister has been completely eclipsed by the brilliant campaign unleashed by his chief opponent, BJP rebel Vadnal Nagaraj aka Rajanna.
The BJP leadership had promised Rajanna that he would be the candidate from Channagiri, whatever coalition the party entered into in Karnataka. But it denied him the ticket after arriving at a seat-sharing arrangement with the Janata Dal (United) now headed by Patel and Ramakrishna Hegde.
His supporters, however, forced Rajanna to file his nomination as an independent candidate in Channagiri. Attempts by Patel and BJP state president B S Yediyurappa to make Rajanna withdraw from the contest have proved futile.
These days Patel rushes to Shivamurthy Shivacharya Swamiji of the Sirigere Taralabalu Math often, urging the swami to intervene and make Rajanna withdraw from the contest.
Curiously, the BJP leadership is unwilling to expel Rajanna. Local BJP politicians say the party strategy is to trip Patel through Rajanna. "We want Rajanna to defeat Patel so that it will ensure that Yediyurappa will be the chief minister if we get the majority in Karnataka," admits one.
There are five other candidates in the fray. But the caste composition of the constituency favours Rajanna. The dominant community in Channagiri is the Lingayats. But within the community, there are two sub-sects -- Sadhu Lingayats and Banajiga Lingayats -- who are sworn enemies.
There are more than 40,000 Sadhu Lingayats and nearly 10,000 Banajiga Lingayats in Channagiri.
Rajanna is a Sadhu Lingayat while Patel is a Banajiga Lingayat. And Sadhu Lingayats have promised their votes to Rajanna.
But what is helping Rajanna is the Congress decision not to field a Sadhu Lingayat against Rajanna. Though the Congress had announced that it would field Madalu Veerupakshappa, a Sadhu Lingayat, in Channagiri, it later opted for a Muslim, Mahibulla Khan.
The Janata Dal (Secular) and the Bahujan Samaj Party have also fielded candidates -- H Ramachandramurthy and D Hanumanthappa, respectively -- but the real fight is between Patel and Rajanna.
Patel is contesting for the seventh time from Channagiri. He was defeated in his first election in 1962. But he won the seat three times in a row in 1978, 1983 and 1985. In 1989, Patel was defeated by N G Halappa by a margin of 16,000 votes. But in 1994 Patel defeated Halappa by 19,000 votes. He became the chief minister in 1996 when H D Deve Gowda, now his sworn enemy, moved to Delhi as prime minister.
Patel is convinced that he is not becoming chief minister again. But that does not bother him. "Judge me by my achievements. I have made Karnataka one of the most prosperous states in the country. Now foreign companies come to Bangalore for investing," he tries to impress the voters.
The thought that he will not be the next chief minister does not worry him. What makes Patel nervous is the possibility that he may not win a fifth term from Channagiri.
ELECTION 99 |
SINGLES | BOOK SHOP | MUSIC SHOP | HOTEL RESERVATIONS | WORLD CUP 99
EDUCATION | PERSONAL HOMEPAGES | FREE EMAIL | FEEDBACK