It is a battle of the turncoats for the Mahalakshmi Layout Assembly bypoll on December 5. Disqualified JD(S) MLA K Gopalaiah, who is now with the BJP, will take on JD(S) candidate Girish K Nashi, who was with the Congress until recently.
“Gopalaiah’s decision to join the BJP will be something that he would regret later. Being the party supremo’s close aid to finding himself on the rival side is not a good sign for any politician,” a top JD(S) leader told Indianexpress.com.
Gopalaiah, however, is eyeing a hat-trick from the constituency after he recorded back-to-back wins since 2013 when he wrested the seat from the Congress.
While he won the 2013 assembly elections with a margin of 15,370 votes, the margin rose to 41,100 votes in 2018, securing over 55 per cent votes of the Mahalakshmi Layout electorate.
“People vote for development and over these years, we have brought in what we have promised for one and all. This time, all my campaigns were based on the work that I have done for the people and the result will be a report card of my performance here,” Gopalaiah said.
The defection, however, has so far evoked a mixed response from the constituency voters.
Ramesh, an entrepreneur, said, “Gopalaiah has been keeping an excellent track record across years here. The party that he represents doesn’t matter as long as he is approachable to people round the clock.”
On the other hand, Venkateshwarappa, a daily wage labourer, said, “While we have trusted our MLA with our votes, him jumping sides for selfish gains puts the voters in here in a bad light. This cannot be allowed again.”
The bypoll is also a matter of prestige for the JD(S) as Mahalakshmi Layout is the only constituency in Bengaluru in which the party wields considerable heft.
“Mahalakshmi Layout is undoubtedly a JD(S) bastion. People here vote for the party and the current standings in the BBMP wards here indicate the same, with us being in rule in 4 out of the seven wards, while the BJP is left with only one,” a local JD(S) leader.
Interestingly, the Congress and JD(S) has decided to field non-Vokkaliga candidates in Mahalakshmi Layout, situated in northwest Bengaluru, in which the electorate constitutes about 60% Vokkaligas.
JD(S) leaders have been campaigning heavily for Girish, a 62-year-old chartered accountant, with both Deve Gowda and Kumaraswamy attending campaign trails across the constituency which covers seven BBMP wards.
Girish has built his campaign around development for the urban poor distributed in several pockets across the constituency. “Building houses for those in need, including slum-dwellers in the constituency I something that I look up to. Traffic issues faced by people will be on my priority list apart from creating employment for the youth, especially to help them set up their own businesses,” he said.
In 2018, Girish had filed his nomination on a Congress ticket but was asked to withdraw later as the party fielded Youth Congress leader Manjunatha S from Mahalakshmi Layout. Manjunath finished third and was able to secure just over 20,000 votes.
“It is ironic that the JD(S) themselves have fielded a turncoat when they make such a big hue and cry for BJP giving seats to peoples’ candidates. With former MLA Narendra Babu and former deputy mayor Harish also supporting Gopalaiah, he will secure a comfortable win this time,” a BJP worker said during campaigning taking place in Marappana Palya ward.
Meanwhile, the Congress candidate this time is M Shivaraju, a BBMP corporator from Shankar Mutt ward. A known follower of Siddaramaiah, Congress has been keen to ensure their top leaders including their legislative party leader and D K Shivakumar to campaign for their candidate.
Former Congress candidate Manjunatha, who is now Karnataka president of the National Students Union of India (NUSI) has also been seen actively campaigning for his party candidate. Over 30 per cent of the electorate in Mahalakshmi Layout includes voters of the age group 25-34.
Carved out of Rajajinagar, Yelahanka and erstwhile Uttarahalli after the delimitation of constituencies in 2008, Mahalakshmi Layout now comprises an electorate of 2.85 lakh voters. With 12 candidates in fray this time, Mahalakshmi Layout is one among the four constituencies from Bengaluru to go to the polls on December 5, the others being Shivajinagar, KR Puram, and Yeshwantpur.