Mysore, Apr 11 UNI | 4 months ago

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah , who led Congress to power in Karnataka last year, now has a big stake in garnering majority of 28 Lok Sabha seats. The Mysore-Kodagu Lok Sabha constituency, a traditional Congress bastion, is also the home turf of Mr Siddaramaiah.

The citadel has only been breached twice in the recent times by the BJP. The constituency with eight Assembly segments throws up both urban-specific and rural issues for political parties in the fray.

Sitting Congress member A H Vishwanath is involved in an intense fight with right-leaning journalist turned politician Pratap Simha.

The Congress has an edge over others in the constituency which has 17,21,197 voters including 8,54,665 women even though a close contest cannot be ruled out, political analysts said.

Though the Congress has won eight of the 10 elections held since 1977, the BJP managed to wrest the seat from the Congress on two occasions (1998 and 2004) and with the victory margin gradually shrinking as evidenced in the results of the last three Parliamentary elections, the constituency is no longer a 'safe seat' for Congress. The constituency has a blend of Vokkaligas, Kurubas, Dalits, Lingayats, Naiks and religious minorities. Caste equations, as in most other constituencies, play a significant role in the final outcome here. After 2009 delimitation, the constituency comprises Krishnaraja,Narasimharaja, Chamaraja, Hunsur, Piriyapatna and Chamundeshwari Assembly segments from Mysore district and Madikeri and Virajpet Assembly segments from Kodagu district.

On the development front, Mysore urban is witnessing a sea-change due to the spill-over effect of Bangalore's growth, and improved connectivity. The gradual influx of Information Technology companies, growth in tourism and projection of Mysore as a preferred investment destination has resulted in large-scale conversion of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes and is changing the occupation profile in Mysore taluk.

Kodagu, which is the largest producer of coffee in India, was a Part 'C' Coorg State till 1956 with a 24-member Legislative Assembly, headed by late C.M. Poonacha, after it was amalgamated with the then Mysore State, now Karnataka. Coorg State had one seat each in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. It became part of Mangalore Lok Sabha Constituency since 1957 and after delimitation been merged with Mysore Lok Sabha constituency.

Geographically, Mysore-Kodagu Lok Sabha constituency is part of the Cauvery basin. Drained by two major rivers, the Cauvery and the Kapila, the economy is agrarian with the bulk of the country's tobacco and coffee cultivated in the region.

Tourism is another important sector having a bearing on the local economy of both Mysore and Kodagu. The city's proximity to India's Silicon Valley has helped Mysore emerge as an investment destination with potential, altering the region's social profile in the recent times.

However, no single issue dominates the eight Assembly segments of the Parliamentary constituency. The three urban constituencies of Krishnaraja, Narasimharaja and Chamaraja have city-specific issues raised by stakeholders such as the Mysore Industries Association, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Confederation of Indian Industry seeking the constitution of an Industrial Township Authority, infrastructure to woo investors and related issues to put the economy on a fast throttle.

In the rural hinterland of Piriyapatna and Hunsur, issues related to tobacco cultivators engage the attention of the parties, while further west, coffee growers have their say.

As part of the erstwhile Mysore kingdom, the region basked under the patronage of the Wadiyars. The period during the later Wadiyars saw the transformation of Mysore as a model city with emphasis on industrialization and education. Also, the region has a history of vibrant political activism which evolved during the freedom struggle, and in response to popular demand, Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV introduced reservation in jobs for backward class groups in the State services (1919), a forerunner to the reservation system after Independence. Not surprisingly, the last scion of the royal family, Srikantadutta Narasimharaja Wadiyar, was elected four times as people reposed goodwill in the Wadiyars whose contribution to the development of the region has been eulogised by historians. The recent passing away of Srikantadutta Wadiyar saw a flurry of activity by the political parties who tried to invite his wife Pramoda Devi Wadiyar to join them with a view to cashing in on public sentiment but to no avail. Now, this leaves the contest wide open. Though A.H. Vishwanath of the Congress is seeking a re-election, the victory is a must both for Mr. Siddaramaiah and the Congress to escape embarrassment. To a large extent, the individuality of candidates from the mainstream political parties has been masked by the party identity, and votes are being sought by projecting the national leaders in the case of the BJP, and both national and State leaders in the case of the Congress.

The BJP, which has fielded a newcomer journalist turned politican Pratap Simha, is banking on the 'Modi wave' and the anti-incumbency factor against the UPA to work in its favour.

Mr. Simha is highlighting the twin issues of corruption and black money to encash on public sentiment. The BJP has so far not raised any local issue of importance to woo the voters. The Congress is highlighting the development programmes launched by the State government in the last 10 months, such as the Anna Bhagya and Ksheera Bhagya, to strike a chord with the voters. It is also trying to neutralise the BJP allegations of corruption and scandals linked to the UPA by referring to the five years of BJP 'misrule' and 'scam-ridden administration' in the State.

Countering the BJP's thrust on corruption, black money and a 'Congress-free' India, the Congress has launched a counter-offensive by projecting the party's vision of a hunger-free India to woo the electorate and has portrayed this election as an ideological battle between forces of secularism and communalism. The Congress is banking on the consolidation of the Dalits, Kurubas and minority votes in its favour.

The JD(S), which has fielded former Upalokayukta, K. Chandrashekaraiah, has described the Congress and BJP as two sides of the same coin and is hence projecting a non-Congress and non-BJP-led alternative front for effective governance.

(Posted on 11-04-2014)