Development, ideology steer BJP’s campaign in Karnataka’s Tumkur, Davangere

Apr 21, 2023 10:11 AM IST

The focus is on development in Tumkur while ideological issues dominance electioneering in Davanagere

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)‘s strategy of steering its campaign for the May 10 Karnataka assembly elections around development and ideology is conspicuous on the ground in Tumkur and the adjoining Davangere.

Karnataka goes to the assembly polls on May 10. (ANI)
Karnataka goes to the assembly polls on May 10. (ANI)

In Tumkur, where the party held five of the 11 seats in the previous state assembly, the focus is on development, with a tepid acknowledgment of the ideological concerns. The BJP has gone all out to advertise the smart city project as proof of its development agenda.

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The BJP cites Tumkur, with its food processing park, the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) helicopter factory, and the smart city, as one of the most successful transformations of a district recently.

In February, Karnataka topped the list of states with the most completed smart city projects. Tumkur was on the 199th spot on the list of cities with the highest number of completed projects as per the Union urban development ministry.

“Development is the reason why the BJP will win in the state and bag eight to nine seats in the Tumkur district. After work for the smart city project was completed and with the opening of the food park and the HAL factory, the face of the district has changed,” said BJP leader Vinay Bidre.

He said the developmental agenda is likely to work for the BJP, which otherwise banks on the Lingayat votes in the region as well as the support of the Vokaliggas, who are considered the vote bank of the Janata Dal (Secular) or JD(S). “The Congress is playing the minority appeasement card, the JD (S) is relying on inducement and emotional arm twisting to retain votes, but because the development work benefited people from all castes, we are expecting a win even in seats like Gubbi, which we have never won,” Bidre said.

In Tumkur, the Lingayats and the Vokaliggas are the largest caste groups followed by Kurbas, Scheduled Castes (SC), and Muslims.

In 2018, the BJP won primarily on account of support from the Lingayats, who hold sway in nine of the 11 seats.

Vishwanathan, a member of the BJP’s information and technology cell in the district, said the JD (S) is trying to woo people by giving free saris, offering free pilgrimage, and other inducements. “...but we are telling people to look around and see the changes on the ground and the difference that a double engine sarkar [BJP governments at the Centre as well as the state] has made to their lives.”

Gowrishankar Swami, the JD(S) lawmaker from the Tumkur rural constituency, said the contest is between his party and the Congress with the BJP pushed to the third spot. “People are rejecting the BJP because of unemployment, corruption, and price rise. They give 450 as a subsidy for a cooking gas cylinder which costs nearly 2,000. The fight here is between the JD(S) and the Congress and the BJP is third,” he said.

He cited the gravity of the job crisis and added his party has announced one job per family if it comes to power.

The BJP is confident that the wide cemented roads, the bustling activity at the food processing park, and the buzz around industries have drowned out criticism from the opponents. It insists it has met the aspirations of the people. But there is a murmur of discontent among the residents.

Outside the University College of Arts, a group of young women counted a lack of safety and jobs as primary concerns. Chandana, a first-time voter, said women cannot move out freely at night and there is an overall sense of lack of security that needs to be addressed. “Women’s safety is an issue. Girls cannot move out freely. We also want the government to spell out what its policy on employment will be. We fear we may have to migrate because there are not enough jobs in the state,” said Chandana, a pharmacy student.

The lack of white-collar jobs appeared to be an oft-repeated concern.

Sivaraman, who runs a store of eatables, said the land was procured for the food park with the promises of job creation. “Most of the people who were employed have been given work that does not commensurate with their education. These are mostly labour jobs.”

Congress and the JD(S) have also made jobs a central theme of their campaign. In a short video clip it has circulated, Congress questioned the ruling BJP about its unfulfilled promises of providing 8, 000 jobs to residents at the HAL factory and the shortfall in water and power supply despite the claims of being a smart city.

In Davanagere, a three-hour drive away, development is a poll issue even as there is an unmistakable pride that the BJP takes in the dominance of ideological issues. Hindutva appears to be helping the party in Davanagere, which is known for its textile industry and educational institutions.

Residents of Davanagere’s Anjaneya Mill said there is support for the BJP even though local legislator N Linganna is not very popular. “N Linganna has not come here after he won the elections, but people will vote for the BJP because of [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi,” said Kamalam, a housewife.

Ganesh, an upper-caste fruit vendor, and Kenchappa, who sells coconuts and is from a Scheduled Tribe (ST) community, echoed Kamalam. But both complained about the benefits of social schemes eluding them.

“In 2018, I was given money to build a house, but there has been no other benefit. Cooking gas and food prices are soaring, and the government has not controlled these. But we do not think these reasons are good enough to move to Congress, because we do not see them being able to do much. So, at the end of the day, we may consider voting for the BJP,” Ganesh said.

The BJP is confident of consolidating the Lingayat, the ST and the SC votes to counter the Congress’s Muslims and Kurbas vote banks in Davangere. It currently holds seven of the seven assembly seats in Davangere, where STs account for 11.98%, SCs 20%, and Muslims about 13% of the population.

BJP leader Yashwantrao Jadhav said people in Davanagere take pride in being associated with the Hindutva ideology and the movement for the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya. “During the Congress rule, eight people were killed and over 70 injured in the shooting that happened during the Ram temple movement.”

In October 1990, communal violence erupted in Davanagere ahead of the Ram Jyothi, an event the Vishwa Hindu Parishad organised to mobilise support for the construction of the temple in Ayodhya.

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