Turning the heat on former Prime Minister and JDS chief H D Deve Gowda, the ruling Congress in Karnataka has launched a full scale offensive to break his stranglehold over Hassan Lok Sabha constituency making it a bumpy ride for him in the Vokkaliga heartland. I
n the twilight of his Parliamentary career, 81-year-old Gowda is playing the sentimental card, telling voters this would be his last polls as he slugs it out to retain his supremacy in a constituency dominated by his Vokkaliga caste.
Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and Energy Minister D K Shivakumar, both hostile to Gowda, have invested heavily into the battle with the latter even micro-managing the strategy. Gowda, who is seeking re-election for the fifth time in Hassan, is pitted against Congress’ Manju, a three-time MLA also hailing from the Vokkaliga community who form over five lakh out of the 15-lakh voter base.
C H Vijayashankar of BJP has entered the fray half-heartedly after initial reluctance over denial of his claim to contest from Mysore, his home turf. A P Ahamad of BSP and six independents are also in the fray. Hassan has remained unflinchingly loyal to JD(S) since 1991 barring the 1999 elections where Gowda lost to former minister G Puttaswamy Gowda (Cong) by over 1.47 lakh votes soon after he stepped down as prime minister.
Siddaramaiah has parked his top ministers in Hassan including Vokkaliga leaders, to woo the community and strategise at the micro level. For Siddaramaiah, the election is an opportunity to settle personal scores over Gowda, who reportedly had denied the Kuruba leader to become chief minister during Congress-JDS coalition rule in 2006.
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He stepped in to end differences between Manju and District Congress President B Shivaram. Shivakumar, also a Vokkaliga, had taken the fight into the JDS bastion and defeated Gowda’s daughter-in-law Anita Kumaraswamy in 2013 Bangalore Rural Lok Sabha bypolls.