In Karnataka’s Tumkur, Water Woes Weigh On Deve Gowda’s Election


Struggling with water scarcity, people in Tumkur are in a Catch-22 situation on whether to vote for JD(S) chief HD Deve Gowda or thwart the expansion of his dynasty politics and vote his rival BJP candidate to victory.

Deve Gowda has left his home turf Hassan to one of his grandsons and is seeking re-election from Tumkur, a Congress bastion and major industrial city, about 70 km from the state capital Bengaluru.

Discontent is growing among people – including JD(S) workers – who feel Deve Gowda is preparing the ground to politically expand his family’s influence.

Also, the sitting Congress MP wanted to contest from Tumkur and this could have a bearing on Deve Gowda’s election. But the JD(S) has said issues with Congress on this matter have been resolved and the two parties are campaigning together in the constituency.

An interesting contest unfolds in the constituency as Deve Gowda, a Vokkaliga, has locked horn in a two-cornered contest with BJP candidate GS Basavaraj, a Lingayat.

Mr Basavaraj is contesting for the eighth time since starting in 1984, out of which he had won thrice on a Congress ticket and once on a BJP ticket (2009).

He was defeated by Muddahanume Gowda of Congress in 2014.

This time, JD(S) is seeking votes with a promise of development and to address the water woes in the constituency, a dry-land region.

The BJP candidate is banking on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity. He is also trying to convince people it was Deve Gowda’s party which did not ensure adequate release of water from river Hemavathi, despite being in power in the state in alliance with the Congress.

Mr Basavaraj said Deve Gowda may not get much support from Congress voters as people are annoyed due to non-release of 24 TMC of water from Hemavathi river.

Tumkur has a share of 24 TMC from Hemavathi river.

But, Mr Basavaraj alleged, Deve Gowda has issued specific instruction to his son and state PWD Minister HD Revanna to “not release water for this region, much of which has been diverted to Hassan which Deve Gowda considers his true home.”

While caste politics have dominated elections in this region, residents want their leaders to look beyond that this time and help them tide over the water problems.

“Some of us are confused who to vote,” said Chiranjeevi, a local contractor from Hethenahalli village.

“We want our community leader (Deve Gowda) to win. But his son, being a PWD minister, is working against us and not releasing water. For us, water is a basic necessity and vote will be cast to those who will resolve the water problem,” he added.

Mr Basavaraj said the electoral contest in Tumkur is based on caste lines and Lingayats and Vokkaligas will play a major role in deciding the winner.

Deve Gowda is exploiting his core vote bank – the Vokkaliga community, while the BJP candidate said he is banking on Lingayats, Yadavs, Valmikis and Brahmins.

Mr Gowda is contesting from Tumkur only to ensure his grandson is elected from Hassan but people are aware of this and will teach him a lesson, he alleged.

The BJP leader said Mr Gowda is “least concerned about farmers” plight here” else he would ensure adequate water to the people.

The JD(S) has previously dismissed the allegations and said several irrigation projects are underway to address the issue.

In the 2014 elections, the Vokkaliga votes were split due to a triangular fight, but this time JD(S) is hoping to capture this section in those assembly segments where it lost with a narrow margin.

Local Congress leaders have said that ceding Tumkur to Deve Gowda was like giving their bastion on a platter to JD(S).

Tumkur district comes under the Old Mysore region. The JD(S) has never won from the seat in parliamentary polls. CN Bhaskarappa had won in 1996 as undivided Janata Dal candidate.

The constituency has eight assembly segments – Chikkanayakanahalli, Tiptur, Turuvekere, Tumkur City, Tumkur Rural, Koratagere, Gubbi and Madhugiri.

Out of that, four are currently held by BJP, three by (JDS) and one by Congress.

Spread over 6,706, Tumkur has 15,94,703 registered voters – 7,97,512 males and 7,97,191 females.

Polling is scheduled in the second phase of Lok Sabha polls on April 18.

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