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|September 11, 1999||
Despite being Karnataka's biggest revenue earner, Coorg is in a mess
The last-minute withdrawal of the call for a poll boycott in Virajpet, one of three assembly segments in Kodagu, may have temporarily cured the state government's headache, but Karnataka's richest district is still seething and simmering at the treatment it is getting.
The boycott call had been issued in Virajpet -- one of three assembly segments in the home of coffee, which forms part of the Mangalore Lok Sabha constituency -- to seek the dereservation of the scheduled tribe constituency and to demand a separate Lok Sabha constituency for Kodagu.
Mathanda C Monappa, president of the Akhila Kodava Samaj, said the boycott call had drawn the state government's attention, and it was now left to voters in Virajpet to send their message by voting in the election or by staying away from polling booths.
The Akhila Kodava Samaj had earlier demanded that the Virajpet constituency be reserved for Kodavas, the dominant community in the south Kodagu region. But it climbed down from its stand and said it would be happy with a general category seat.
Virajpet has been reserved for STs since 1962. The demand for dereservation of the constituency throws up an interesting question: Can a time be reached when sufficient political mobility has been attained and reservation is no longer required?
But coming on top of the nascent demand for separate statehood for the district, the poll boycott threat further illustrates the manner in which public perception of the state government's stepmotherly treatment of Kodagu is constantly growing.
The statehood issue is not being debated furiously at election meetings, but it is very much on the agenda. The Kodagu Rajya Mukti Morcha has urged voters to only back candidates who are for a separate Kodagu state, and to reject those who are not.
Although just 120 km from Mysore and Bangalore, Kodagu severely lacks an industrial and educational infrastructure. There are no rail heads, the roads are in a mess, and the lack of attention given the returns from Kodagu, shows at every step.
"We are the state's number one revenue earner. Our human development and gender related indices are higher than that of any other district. But, instead of bringing other districts to our level, the government is pulling us down to theirs," fumes K C Bopaiah, a Madikeri resident.
All the three assembly segments in Kodagu -- Madikeri, Somwarpet and Virajpet -- had gone the BJP's way in the 1994 assembly election. Thanks to Kargil, Kodavas, a large percentage of whom are in the armed forces, are unlikely to desert the party in a hurry.
Or will they?
B A Jivijaya's departure from the Lok Shakti has dealt a blow of sorts to the BJP. The giantkiller from Somwarpet, who first shot to fame by trouncing R Gundu Rao, left the party after he was denied a ticket following the BJP-Lok Shakti tie-up.
Similarly, in Madikeri, the BJP has denied a ticket to D S Madappa, a local stalwart who helped build the party in the district. Madappa, a Kodagu Gowda like Jivijaya, is contesting the election as an Independent.
Strife in two of the three assembly constituencies, and a withdrawn boycott call in the third, may not be a good augury for the Kargil party. But who's to tell?
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