He is 29,single and disarmingly mild-mannered. Priya Krishna,the Congress candidate looking for a second-time win from Bangalores Govindrajnagar constituency,is also extremely wealthy. With declared assets of Rs 910 crore,as per Election Commission records,Krishna is the richest candidate in the polls.
His youth,affluence and bachelor status ought to be a winning combination,but triple graduate Krishna (he has a degree in law,a postgraduate degree in humanities) is taking no chances. You cannot sit back and take things for granted in an election, he said. Braving the summer heat,he and his supporters are trudging through the congested roads of Govindrajnagar,beseeching residents for votes.
Vote for me,vote for the Congress; only the Congress can give you a stable,efficient government for the next five years, Krishna pitched with folded hands as he jostled through the crowd in a section of the city far removed from the glitzy malls and flashy technology parks.
If liquor and mining wealth held sway in past elections,2013 is seen to be the election powered by real estate money. Real estate is the asset class increasingly favoured by politicians as it sucks in as well as generates bagfuls of cash or black money. Across parties,many contestants hold hundreds of acres of land,stockpiling wealth by buying and selling large tracts,and the political ascent of many are directly linked to shooting land prices. Politics and real estate make for a cosy nexus one a source of unaccounted cash and the other a conduit for expending this cash in order to win the election and then to multiply wealth.
Krishna may be the richest contestant,but the field is crowded with wealthy politicians whose assets do not reflect in their EC affidavits. There are many who are wealthier,including MLAs,MPs and ministers,some are 10 times as wealthy as I am,but they dont show it, Krishna said.
Though much has been said about money influencing polls,in Bangalore and elsewhere there are no visible signs,at least,of candidates wealth or extravagant campaigning. In fact,this election is remarkably subdued than the previous ones,much of this attributable to the Election Commissions clampdown on candidates expenditure.
The story is the same in Govindarajnagar,home to Karnatakas wealthiest candidate. Krishna is the son of M Krishnappa,a real estate tycoon who amassed his riches by developing layouts or plotted developments in the suburbs of Bangalore and selling plots to the middle class. The father and son are Congress candidates from neighbouring constituencies. Interestingly,in Vijaynagar constituency,Krishnappa is pitted against BJP minister V Somanna,whom the son had defeated in the last polls.
How Krishnappas and his sons wealth has benefitted their constituencies is unclear. But there is very little voter love lost on Somanna,the opportunist minister who is notorious for changing political affiliations. Somanna will create a record. He will be the first candidate in Indian electoral history to be defeated first by the son and then by the father, said Krishna.
In Bangalore,the Congress desperately needs candidates like Krishna and his father to be victorious. The city accounts for 28 Assembly constituencies out of the total 224,and most of these are dominated by Vokkaligas,one of Karnatakas two major communities (the other is Lingayat). Krishna and his father are Vokkaligas,and supporters of former chief minister S M Krishna. In the 2009 polls,urban voters had shunned the Congress and backed the BJP in 17 of Bangalores 28 Assembly segments. A Congress comeback in the city would help the party get closer to the magic halfway figure and carry it back to the Vidhana Soudha.
In Govindrajnagar,the only discernible sign of Krishnas wealth is the solitary Mitsubishi SUV,equipped with towels and bottled water,which trails him around the narrow streets. In a roadside stop at mid-day,one overzealous supporter described him as poorest of poor and humblest of humble. In fact,his PR machinery has been on an overdrive,portraying Krishna as modest and down-to-earth. I cant escape the fact that I am rich, said Krishna who took over his fathers business when he turned 18. Theres more to me than my bank balance; Im hardworking,well-behaved,uncorrupt, he said.
Though Govindrajnagar has half-a-dozen serious candidates,including H Ravindra (BJP),T Range Gowda (JDS) and P Doddaiah (KJP),Krishna certainly seems popular among young voters and women. I want to give him a chance this time, said Poojamma,65,of Basaveshwarnagar who seemed well aware of Krishnas reputation as Karnatakas most eligible candidate. Mohammed Mazhar,24,an autodriver from Gangondanahalli,said,I will vote for him because it is rare to have a candidate young enough to understand us. The rest are well over 40,he said.