Leaders made a last-minute dash Thursday to try and sway voters in Karnataka and parties braced for the vote Saturday at the end of a bitter, hard campaign for the assembly elections.
And it was no different in Chamundeshwari. After leading the Congress charge across Karnataka over the last few weeks, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah left Chamundeshwari — one of the two constituencies he is contesting — for the very end.
He began with an apology. “I couldn’t come here earlier. I went to north Karnataka. But this place is not new to me, you have all always supported me,” Siddaramaiah said. “You have a chance to elect the CM again. I am winning, you know. I know with your blessings, I will be CM again.”
But the cracks in his own campaign showed when he reached D Kattur village Wednesday night, his tenth stop for the day. As he left his car to visit a local leader, a small crowd gathered and raised slogans — in support of his opponent and incumbent JD(S) MLA G T Devegowda.
Annoyed, the Chief Minister hurried into the leader’s house, while his security detail attempted to scatter the JD(S) supporters. “This is unthinkable,” Nagesh, a resident of the village, said. “He has not come here before, but he is the CM after all. It is strange that anybody, even the JD(S) could have done something like this.”
For the 2018 elections, Siddaramaiah vacated the Varuna seat for his son, Yathindra, and chose to contest in neighbouring Chamundeshwari. He is also the candidate in Badami in north Karnataka.
Siddaramaiah is no stranger to Chamundeshwari though. He won his first election here in 1983 as a Bharatiya Lok Dal candidate and went on to become a minister in two governments — 1985 and 1994 — and Deputy CM in 1996 and 2004. He moved to the Varuna constituency in 2008.
Of the over 2 lakh voters in Chamundeshwari, more than half are Vokkaligas, while the remaining is split between OBCs, Muslims and Kurubas, the community Siddaramaiah belongs to. So, Wednesday’s blitz across this region started with Hossahundi, a Vokkaliga-dominated village.
In Mandakalli, he repeated how he was sure to win the elections. But there were a few additions. This is a Kuruba-dominated village. “There is no BJP here. They are working with the JD(S) this time and are two sides of the same coin. It won’t happen. I will be CM again. All communities are in this village. In fact, that is what a village is made of,” he said.
In Kadakola, one of the few Muslim-dominated areas in Chamundeshwari, he tweaked his message. “All this sabka saath, sabka vikas are lies. The BJP is communal and wants to create fire between Hindus and Muslims. They should not come to power in Karnataka,” he said.
While his speeches invoke loud responses, particularly from party workers, sources in the Congress said Chamundeshwari was the tougher fight between his two constituencies. “The JD(S) candidate G T Devegowda is very popular among the Vokkaligas here. They won’t all vote for him, but a substantial percentage will. Unlike other JD(S) MLAs, he has done work here and enjoys support from Dalits,” a local Congress leader said.
“In fact, that crowd at Kattur who shouted slogans supporting Devegowda were Dalits. It came as surprise to us too since the CM has enjoyed support from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.”
After six hours of campaigning, Siddaramaiah took a break in Sindhuvalli village, where Dalits form the majority. “More then this election, it is the 2019 election that is important. You must understand, they are trying to the change the Constitution. I know you will not allow them to so that,” he said.