There is no need for political analysts to tell us that the Assembly election in Karnataka is going to be a close contest. The efforts of the three main contenders — the Congress, the BJP and the Janata Dal (S) — to reach out to every distant part of the state, make it obvious.
Muttyanatti is one such village in north Karnataka’s Belgaum district. Tagged as a village of dacoits, its population of 2,000 has largely been off the political radar. But with the village going to polls on May 22, roads that are usually deserted after dark are now buzzing with activity. And residents have been showered with promises the likes of which they have never heard before.
Till a few years ago, over 50 per cent of the male villagers, who mostly belong to a schedule tribe called Bedar, had cases of dacoity, robbery and theft pending against them. "Many of the Muttyanatti villagers have been to jail, and cases are on against others. A few are absconding too," circle sub-inspector Amarnath Reddy said.
But the scenario has begun to change, thanks to the police. With a new officer, Basavraj N Bavlatti, taking the charge of Kakti police station, many villagers, the police say, have abstained serious crimes. "These villagers needed to be included into the mainstream so that they can live normal life," said an activist-advocate and political worker NR Latur.
Despite the village’s dubious record, political parties are aware that even the couple of thousand voters from Muttyanatti cannot be ignored in the polls. "We want them to be fully transformed. We plan to provide them the employment, which the village needs the most," said Shankargouda Patil, BJP candidate from north Belgaum constituency.
Every evening, the dusty lanes of Muttyanatti see political party workers and their leaders coming in and addressing small meetings and showering them with promises. "We have never seen political leaders in such big numbers in our village. We are amused to see leaders joining their hands before us," said villager Sadagouda Basavi.