In Hassan, the election as usual is centred around H D Deve Gowda, but the stakes are higher this time for a man looking at one last hurrah. As the opposition focuses all its efforts on defeating him, his campaign has sought to play on a sentiment that not voting for Deve Gowda, 81, would amount to betrayal, when he has hinted it would be his last election. And H D Kumaraswamy has gone to the extent of projecting his father as PM candidate.
Gowda, five-term MP, has lost Hassan only once, in 1999. In 2009, he hinted it might be his last election and Hassan elected him with a record margin of over two lakh. In 2013, the JD(S) won six of the eight assembly segments. Gowda is credited with developing the region since he was first elected in 1962 to the Karnataka assembly as an independent.
“The MLAs from six assembly segments are from the JDS. All except the Hassan MLA won by more than 30,000 votes in 2013. We lost in Belur because one of our leaders joined the KJP and took a lot of the JD(S) votes and in Arakalgud because a rebel was contesting. Now all the leaders are working for Gowda,” said K Nandish, a former president of the Kabbali gram panchayat.
“Gowda might have been branded a leader of the Vokkaligas, but in Hassan he is a leader for all communities. I am a Kuruba but that does not mean I will support the Congress because the chief minister belongs to my community or the BJP because the BJP candidate belongs to my community. Here Gowda is important,” says deputy chairman of the Doddakannur gram panchayat Poojary Swamegowda.
Gowda’s campaign is led by son H D Revanna and his wife Bhavani Revanna. Gowda’s grandson Prajwal Revanna too is campaigning. His other son, Kumaraswamy, last week said his father could become prime minister a second time. “Congress people are saying Deve Gowda will be defeated. The chief minister is saying Deve Gowda will be finished politically. The people of the district should give a fitting reply,” Kumaraswamy told party workers near Hassan.
Many voters are upset with water shortage and lack of compensation, yet many are ready to overlook that. “We will vote for Gowda considering his contribution and his age. But, we will be very grateful if he can solve our water problem and reduce price of fertilisers,” said Ramesh D K of Dasarahalli village.
Leading the Congress effort are CM Siddaramaiah and minister D K Shivakumar. A Manju, sitting MLA, is the candidate and has a support base in Arakalgud, Belur and Hassan but many say he has not done much work as MLA. He is banking on the Kuruba community of Siddaramaiah. With many farmers dependent on milk production, the Congress government last year announced a Rs 4 subsidy to milk producers.
Manju and his party tell people they will “finish” Gowda politically.
The BJP has fielded Mysore leader C H Vijayashankar here after the party decided to field Narendra Modi’s biographer Prathap Simha from there.
He is considered an outsider. “People will vote for me to bring change and support Modi,” hesaid. “We don’t want to finish Gowda or anyone. We just want our candidate to win,” said Vasantha Kumar, a BJP worker.
The BJP is eyeing Lingayat and Kuruba votes. “Most Lingayats have decided to vote for BJP and the Kuruba community will support the BJP as our candidate belongs to the same community,” a BJP worker said.