For the Janata Dal (Secular), the parliamentary constituency of Tumakuru is an anomaly. Though the party is at its strongest in the Old Mysuru region — which Tumakuru district is a part of — the JD(S) has never once registered a win from there in the Lok Sabha elections. This year, however, may see a change with party president H D Deve Gowda contesting from Tumakuru, with the support of coalition partner, the Congress. The former Prime Minister relinquished his Hassan Parliamentary constituency to his grandson, Prajwal Revanna.
The BJP has fielded G S Basavaraj, who won the seat four times from Tumakuru, three of which were on a Congress ticket and one on BJP. In 2014, he lost to S P Muddahanumegowda, incumbent Congress MP, who was asked to cede the seat to Deve Gowda for the 2019 LS elections.
Muddahanumegowda, initially very unhappy with this decision, is said to have come around and has been participating in Congress-JD(S) joint rallies. So also K N Rajanna, former Madhugiri MLA, who withdrew his nomination as a ‘rebel’ candidate after senior Congress leaders intervened. “Our main aim is to defeat Modi and the BJP in the State and in the nation,” said Deve Gowda at a press conference after filing his nomination papers in Tumakuru. This election will see two political veterans — Deve Gowda, 85, and Mr. Basavaraj, 77, — in a face off, though 13 other candidates are in the fray.
A staunch supporter of State BJP president B S Yeddyurappa, Mr. Basavaraj is banking on Modi’s appeal and the development works that he helped set up in the district.
It is expected that the votes of the two dominant castes in the district, the Vokkaligas and Lingayats, will go to Deve Gowda and Basavaraj respectively.
But, the vote of Kuruba and the Golla communities, who are considerable in number, may go against the JD(S). The Kuruba community blame the JD(S) for the defeat of their community leader and then Chief Minister Siddaramaiah in the 2018 Assembly elections at Chamundeshwari, and the Gollas for the sidelining of A Krishnappa, in the 2014 LS elections. The votes of the Scheduled Castes, more than 2.6 lakh in number, will be the deciding factor in this election.
However, caste alone will not determine the winner. In this drought-prone district, water will have a role to play. Basavaraj has alleged that Deve Gowda has done injustice to the people of Tumakuru district by not releasing its share of water from the Hemavathi river for drinking purposes.
However, the JD(S) has denied these allegations. “When Deve Gowda entered the Legislative Assembly in 1962 [Nijalingappa was the then Chief Minister], he was the first person in the House to move a private Bill in the Assembly stating that irrigation projects in the Cauvery basin had to be launched. This led to irrigation projects in the Cauvery, Kabini, and the Hemavathi basins,” said Ramesh Babu, JD(S) leader.
As part of its election promise, the JD(S) said it would address the issue of water across the State, including Tumakuru, by implementing more irrigation projects.
The events leading up to the ruling coalition’s choice of Deve Gowda as the candidate has opened the doors for the BJP to raise the issue of dynastic politics. Basavaraj, in his campaigns, have pointed out that Deve Gowda could have given ticket to local Tumakuru leaders. “He is interested only in getting power for his family members,” he has said.