The Congress is looking at Channapatna to take revenge on the JD-S which, it believes, has an underhand deal with the BJP to stop it from getting a majority..
Channapatna, taluk headquarters of Ramanagara district in Karnataka and famous for its wooden toys, is 67 km from Bengaluru.
It is in the midst of one of the more interesting battles in the assembly polls, involving former chief minister H D Kumaraswamy and his challenger CP Yogeshwara, a frequent party hopper but popular politician.
Kumaraswamy, 58, the Janata Dal-Secular leader and former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda’s son, is also contesting from the neighbouring Ramanagara assembly seat, his home constituency.
His decision to contest from Channapatna as well wasn’t received well by the party rank and file, but was dictated by the internal intrigue of the Deve Gowda clan, with Kumaraswamy, if he wins, likely to vacate the Ramanagara seat for his wife.
Ramanagara district is part of the region considered the Vokkaliga heartland, and the stronghold of the Deve Gowda clan.
It is also where the Congress is worried that the Bharatiya Janata Party, with a small base, has asked its supporters to vote for the JD-S to ensure the defeat of the Congress.
At a public rally in Periyapatna on Friday, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah alleged that the JD-S was the ‘B’ team of the BJP.
But in Channapatna, the suspected JDS-BJP covert entente threatens to unravel.
Yogeshwara, 55, is also a Vokkaliga leader and has changed several parties in over two decades.
In 2013, Yogeshwara contested on the ticket of the Samajwadi Party, which has a small base in Karnataka, but defeated Kumaraswamy’s wife, Anitha Kumaraswamy, who was the JD-S candidate.
Since 1999, Yogeshwara has continuously represented the Channapatna constituency.
He has won as an independent, represented the Congress and the SP in the assembly, and is now the BJP candidate.
Yogeshwara is candid that he is probably the region’s only BJP candidate who is likely to win.
“The BJP has no presence in the region, no cadre. I win on the basis of my good work in the constituency,” he said.
Forest minister in the BJP government of 2008-13, Yogeshwara is known for his plain speaking, and says the campaigning by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in the state might not be able to influence the election significantly.
“This is not UP. This is south India. We are a mature people. Regional parties are strong in all the four southern states. Issues here are different,” he told Business Standard.
The strong challenge put up by Yogeshwara has forced Nikhil Gowda, son of Kumaraswamy, to campaign extensively in the Channapatna constituency.
In the past, Yogeshwara faced corruption cases, but that doesn’t perturb his supporters.
Suresh, a shopkeeper, has hung a photograph of himself and his daughter with Yogeshwara on the wall.
“He helped me with my daughter’s school admission,” the shopkeeper says.
Jaffar Khan, 30, a craftsman who makes wooden toys, says the Muslim community might have a rethink about supporting Yogeshwara because he is now with the BJP.
“He may not have done much for craftsmen, but farmers love him. He has spent on irrigation,” Khan said.
The Congress, meanwhile, has fielded Transport Minister H M Revanna, who belongs to the Kuruba community, and could potentially eat into Kumaraswamy’s Muslim base.
The Congress is looking at Channapatna to take revenge on the JD-S which, it believes, has an underhand deal with the BJP to stop it from getting a majority.