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Fielding “strong” Ashoka, BJP striving to break state Congress chief Shivakumar’s stranglehold in Kanakapura

BENGALURU: Can the BJP, that has fielded a ”formidable candidate” as part of its strategy to take the poll battle to the opposition camp here, find success in breaching Karnataka Congress President D K Shivakumar’s fortress of Kanakapura, nestled amid rocky terrains of Ramanagara district on the outskirts of Bengaluru? Answers to this question will be among the highlights of the May 10 Assembly polls in the state.

In a surprise move, BJP fielded senior party leader and Minister R Ashoka, who is considered to be its Vokkaliga face, against Congress’ Vokkaliga strong man Shivakumar in his home turf, which is the community’s strong hold.

JD(S) too has fielded Vokkaliga, B Nagaraju from here. Seven-time MLA Shivakumar has been elected thrice from Karnakapura since 2008 and is now seeking a re-election for the fourth time here.

He had earlier won four consecutive elections since 1989 from the nearby Sathanur till he shifted to the Kanakapura in 2008, after that constituency ceased to exist as the result of a delimitation exercise.

In the 2018 elections, Shivakumar secured 1,27,552 votes, defeating Janata Dal (Secular) candidate Narayana Gowda (47,643) by 79,909 votes. Shivakumar defeated JD(S)’ P G R Sindhia in 2013 polls by 31,424 votes, and in 2008 won against JD(S)’ D M Vishwanath by 7,179 votes.

The 2018 polls is said to be BJP’s ”best ever performance” in Kanakapura segment with its candidate Nandini Gowda securing 6,273 votes. The vote share was about 3.37 per cent. In 2013, the party had got 1,807 votes.

Before Shivakumar’s arrival into Kanakapura’s political scene, the constituency was a stronghold of Janata Party/Janata Dal, with Sindhia winning consecutively six times, between 1983 polls and 2004.

Janata Parivar veteran Ramakrishna Hegde too had contested a byelection from this constituency, when he became the Chief Minister in 1983.

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Shivakumar, often referred with his initials ”DK” in political circles, is a Chief Ministerial aspirant in the event of Congress coming to power.

With his electoral graph steadily increasing, his supporters and followers are hopeful that Shivakumar will win with a margin of over a lakh votes and will become the Chief Minister this time.

However, the BJP is now attempting to change the scenario, and wants to end Shivakumar’s dominance in the constituency, often referred to as ”Republic of Kanakapura” by his critics, accusing him of having a ”stranglehold” on the segment without leaving space for opposition.

Speaking to PTI at Shivanahalli here, Ashoka during the campaigning said, his candidacy has resulted in an election contest, in its true sense, taking place for the first time in the region, after nearly two decades, and there is a strong undercurrent against Shivakumar, and in favour of BJP.

”My first priority is to assure people about free and fair elections. I’m the trigger for the people to vent out the anger that they had in them for the last 20 years, through votes,” he said, adding that, he is in the fray from Kanakapura as per the directions of the party, and his task was to win the seat, along with building the party in the constituency, where it has virtually no presence. ”I have to make treasure out of trash, that’s the challenge.” ”Earlier, when a BJP candidate filed nomination, only 10 people came along. This time, 5,000 people accompanied me,” he said.

Ashoka is also contesting the polls from his traditional seat of Padmanabhanagara in Bengaluru. In fact, his younger son Ajay Ashoka, 30, is stationed in Kanakapura to manage and coordinate the campaign locally. Shivakumar, often referred to as ”Kanakapurada Bande” (Rock of Kanakapura) in sections of the media, is upbeat about his win, and has not visited the segment much after filing the nomination, during which he had said, ”I’m not the candidate here, every household and family in this constituency will do the elections thinking themselves as the candidate, as I have served them for 35 years…”.

Regarding Ashok’s candidacy, he said, ”I wish him (Ashoka) good luck, there should be a fight in politics, it is not new for me as I had fought against H D Deve Gowda in 1985, later against H D Kumaraswamy, my life is a struggle, I will continue to fight.”. However, subsequently, he had questioned Ashoka’s ”connection” with Kanakapura and the need for fielding him from here.

Shivakumar had faced defeat against Deve Gowda from Sathanur in 1985.

While a section of voters in Kanakapura are confident about Shivakumar’s win as he is the ”son of the soil”, and they also want him to be the CM; a few say there is a sense of worry for the first time in the former’s camp with BJP’s surprise move of fielding Ashoka.

They point at his wife Usha Shivakumar extensively campaigning for the first time in the segment on behalf of her husband. With Shivakumar busy campaigning for Congress candidates in other parts of the state, his brother and Bengaluru Rural MP D K Suresh is managing the affairs in Kanakapura.

Upbeat over BJP fielding a ”strong candidate” like Ashoka, and claiming that the party will win with margin of 2,000-5,000 votes, BJP workers Ashwath Narayan and Manjunatha Rao said, ” there are lot of issues here, for example there are many backward areas in the segment liks Bannimukodlu, Hunsanahalli, Sarahaddinadoddi, where nomadic tribes like Irula live, they have not seen much development.” Some BJP workers and locals who did not want to be named claimed that ”fear” with threats of false police cases and ”putting people under obligation” are among the key strategies adopted by Shivakumar camp to ensure there is no political opposition on the ground level and that he gets votes. They point at alleged incidents of trenches dug outside the homes of opponents, as part of ”vendetta politics”. They also allege that as part of the internal understanding JD(S) does not field a strong candidate here or campaign with an aim to win. ”Understanding with JD(S) has been there for some time now….. you can see for yourself, JD(S) leadership including Deve Gowda and H D Kumaraswamy does not come here for campaigning,” they point out.

JD(S) candidate in 2018, Narayana Gowda, who got 47,643 votes, is now with Congress.

Congress workers on their part reject the allegations of vendetta politics and fear of false cases, saying Kanakapura has witnessed development under Shivakumar in terms of roads, schools, power among other things. ”Falsehood is being spread against DK, no one can defeat him here, he will win and become CM.” In Doddaalahalli, Shivakumar’s native place, which almost resembles a mini town, people are confident about his win, but some are of the opinion that margin might narrow with Ashoka contesting.

Sixty-year-old Shivanna Gowda said he was with the BJP in the past, but joined Congress as Shivakumar got his son and nephew jobs. ”Now that he has done me a favour, it won’t be right on my part if I don’t be with him, so I decided to support Congress. He has done good work for the village. You can see.” ”We want him to become CM. When Deve Gowda, a Vokkaliga became PM, I was very happy. Shivakumar is someone who has grown in front of us, he is from this village, if he becomes CM, nothing can stop us. We want him to become one,” he said, With Ashoka contesting, BJP is certainly ”making noise” here, but it won’t have much impact, he further said, pointing to a man, supposedly a BJP worker, wearing a saffron scarf, passing by on his bike. With 15 candidates in the fray, Kanakapura has a total electoral population of 2,24,956, including 1,11,030 male voters.


Source: Press Trust of India

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