BJP looks to make inroads in JD(S), Congress stronghold
Mandya, a part of the old Mysuru region that sends 64 lawmakers to the state assembly, contains the strongest belt of the Vokkaliga community.
The Bharatiya Janata Party office in a quiet corner of Subhasnagara in Mandya is getting a new coat of paint. Leaflets and campaign material have arrived in plastic packets. Workers are raring to go and hit the election trail in a region that is crucial for the party in the upcoming assembly polls.
Mandya, a part of the old Mysuru region that sends 64 lawmakers to the state assembly, contains the strongest belt of the Vokkaliga community. It is the stronghold of the Janata Dal (Secular), and the Congress is its closest competitor. In the 2018 election, HD Deve Gowda’s party got 26 seats from the region and the BJP bagged just 16, even as it swept across central and coastal Karnataka. The Congress won in 22seats.
“This time, the central leadership is directly handling the campaign in this area,” said Harsha B, the BJP’s district office secretary. Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a roadshow in Mandya on March 12 before he came to Mysuru on April 9 amid a rousing reception. In December, Union home minister Amit Shah visited Mysuru and Mandya to attend several events.
“The BJP campaign in Karnataka is clearly being steered by the Prime Minister. In the 99 days of 2023, he is on his 8th visit to the state today, with events in Mysore and Chamrajanagar districts of Old Mysore region,” tweeted Sandeep Shastri, national coordinator of the Lokniti Network, a collective of scholars and researchers.
The old Mysuru region is the largest electoral area in the state. It is crucial for JD (S)’s relevance, Congress’s prospects of returning to power and the BJP’s hopes of dominating the Vokkaliga bastion.
A few kilometres from the rocky hills that gave Ramanagara its legacy as the shooting spot for Sholay, Congress candidate Iqbal Hussain counts on price rise and the Siddaramaiah government’s (2013-18) ration scheme. “The Congress has its own base in India. The Manmohan Singh government gave cooking gas for ₹450 only. The Siddaramaiah (as chief minister) gave 7kg rice per head with sugar and oil. Now, the BJP government gives only 5kg of rice,” he said.
Nearby at a hardware store, some of Hussain’s supporters admit it will be a tough fight. “The fight here has always been between the JD(S) and the Congress. The BJP was never in picture. But Modi’s campaign is a big issue,” said local panchayat president Punith Kumar.
Chandrappa, a Congress supporter, agreed. “The BJP is nowhere but if the PM spends more time in this region, no one can say what the result would be,” he said. “They talk about issues such as Pakistan, Hindutva.”
Harsha also counts on social media, an area where the BJP has no stiff competition from rivals. “If we get a good candidate, people will vote for us. In Mandya district, all seven seats belong to the JD(S). But people are knowledgeable now. They see TV and more importantly, they are glued to social media,” he said.