Karnataka, just as it was one year ago during its state assembly elections, remains a dream state for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to establish their power in the current Lok Sabha elections. It is perceived by them to be the gateway into the southern part of the country. Will the people of the state – the workers, the farmers, the traders, the IT employees, the women, the religious and sexual minorities and many others in the state want the BJP led, RSS-guided delusional central government yet again?
A total of 50,307,182 out of 61,130,704 people in 28 constituencies across the state will be voting in two phases. While in the first phase of the election, to be held on April 18, 2019 the people in the southern part of the state would cast their vote, the people in the northern part will on April 23, 2019. What do these crucial lok sabha elections mean to the voters in the state? This is the question that the Newsclick will be focusing on, in the series of articles to follow.
To begin with, here is the general picture of the constituencies, their candidates and the raging issues in some of these constituencies.
A Bird’s Eye View of 28 Constituencies:
Udupi Chikmagalur, Hassan, Dakshina Kannada, Chitradurga, Tumkur, Mandya, Mysore, Chamarajanagar, Bengaluru Rural, Bengaluru North, Bengaluru Central, Bengaluru South, Chikkballapur and Kolar are the fourteen parliamentary constituencies in the southern part of Karnataka; Chikkodi, Belgaum, Bagalkot, Bijapur, Gulbarga, Raichur, Bidar, Koppal, Bellary, Haveri, Dharwad, Uttara Kannada, Davanagere and Shimoga are the fourteen parliamentary constituencies in the northern part of the state. The BJP is contesting in total of 27 constituencies, except in Kolar; the Indian National Congress is contesting in 21 constituencies; Janata Dal (Secular) [JD(S)] in 3 constituencies and Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)] in 1 constituency, in Chikkaballapur.
The BJP and the Congress national leaders/representatives are campaigning briskly for their candidates in the state. Rahul Gandhi has already campaigned for the party in the state twice on March 31 at Kalaburagi and Bengaluru on March 18 and is expected to be addressing the rallies in Kolar, Chitradurga and K.R. Nagar in the Mandya parliamentary constituency, and as a report in the Indian Express says, he will also be campaigning for Nikhil Gowda of JD(S). The National leaders/ representatives of the CPI(M) are also campaigning for Comrade S Varalakshmi, state secretary of Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU). Tapan Sen- general secretary of CITU addressed public meeting in Chelur, Bagepalli and Hoskote on April 12, 2019; Subhashini Ali- president of All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA) and Brinda Karat- the General Secretary of AIDWA will be campaigning in the following days.
Also see: Karnataka: Can Lies And Communal Propaganda Win BJP the Elections?
According to various media reports, BJP president Amit Shah has either campaigned or will be campaigning in the state in Davangere, Hassan, Tumkur, Kolar, Kalaburagi, Vijayapura, and Dharwad. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be addressing six election rallies in the state: he addressed a rally at Chitradurga and Mysore on April 8, and on April 13 at Mangaluru and Bengaluru, he is said to be addressing at Chikkodi and Gangavati on April 18. The Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath will campaign in parts of the state on April 15 and 21 and former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan will address rallies in Karwar and Haveri, reported moneycontrol.com. The party is said to be supporting independent candidate and actor Sumalatha Ambareesh, the widow of the former MP from the region and a veteran actor Ambareesh.
HD Deve Gowda the “patriarch” of JD(S) is contesting from Tumkur, and both of his grandsons Prajwal Revanna (son of H D Revanna, a sitting MLA) and Nikhil Gowda (son of the current Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy) are contesting from Hassan and Mandya, respectively. Amidst the acquisitions on the JD(S) of the dynastic politics, and various controversial candidates from the BJP contesting in the same seats and the Congress struggling to give a tough fight to the delusional BJP, the state is witnessing these campaigns.
Also Read: Why Karnataka’s Uttara Kannada Witnessed Communal Violence in December 2017
Candidates like Anantha Kumar Hegde, who is infamous for his hate speeches and instigations of communal violence is yet again contesting from Uttara Kannada; Tejaswi Surya yet again infamous for his outrageous speeches is a young Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) contesting in the Bengaluru South; and B N Bache Gowda- former labour minister of the state during B S Yeddyurappa’s government and is in famous for the most violative labour policies is contesting yet again from Chikkaballapur constituency, where Veerappa Moily from Congress is contesting too. Prakash Raj, a multilingual actor is one of the independent candidates and he is contesting from the central Bengaluru.
On the one hand, we have these histories of the candidates, the stories of power-hungry parties and on the other hand, we have blazing issues faced by the people of the state. As mentioned earlier the following series of the stories is an attempt to bring out these issues in the state. Following is a broad outlook of the issues we will be addressing.
Also Read: In Bid to Gain Power, BJP is Facilitating Communal Violence in Karnataka
The Stories of People
The growing unemployment rate in the country; the increase in the atrocities on dalits, women, religious and sexual minorities; the worsening agrarian crisis in the state with the worst drought and the anti-farmer policies of the current BJP government in the centre and most importantly, the communalisation project of the BJP in the state needs our special attention. However, these issues are taking a back stage both in the mainstream media and also in the election campaigns: Nationalism and Hindus are taking up all the available spaces of conversation.
For example, according to a report in the Deccan Herald, the central government had allocated Rs. 605.38 crore in 2014-15 for National Rural Drinking Water Project (NRDWP) in Karnataka and the state government had allocated Rs. 1,083 crore in the same year. In 2018-2019 fiscal year, the centre’s share was as low as Rs. 312.33 crore and the state government’s share shot up to 1,887.67 crore. NRDWP was launched in 2009. The project aimed in ensuring that every rural household had safe and adequate water for drinking, cooking and other domestic needs. The centre and the states are supposed share the cost in a 50:50 pattern, but as it can be seen, the expenditure of the state government is more than twice the spend of the central government.
Also Read: Centre Reduces Funds for NRDWP in Drought-hit Karnataka, Has No Money for MGNREGS
The New Indian Express, on June 13, 2018, had reported that there was a drastic reduction in allocation of funds by the central government to the state for drinking water projects. The Rural Development and Panchayat Raj (RDPR) Minister Krishna Byre Gowda had said, “Even though the Centre had to bear 50 per cent of the project costs, the funds sanctioned by it are enough to cover only 10 percent of the cost.”
This fund cut for NRDWP in the state came when the Karnataka government has declared total of 86 taluks in 23 districts ‘drought-affected’ during the Kharif season in 2018, and additional 14 taluks in 9 districts declared as ‘severely drought-affected’.
The state government has sought drought relief aid of Rs. 2,434 crore to compensate for the crop loss in 100 out of 175 taluks. The government, however, has announced a relief of only Rs 949.49 crore. This, in comparison to the relief aid given to the BJP-ruled Maharashtra which has declared 151 out of 358 taluks drought-affected, is nothing. The central government, according to Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) President Dinesh Gundu Rao, has announced an aid of Rs 4,714.28 crore. Rao, in a letter written to the PM, has said, “I would like to let you know that this show of favouritism by your government is not appreciated by the people of Karnataka," reported The News Minute.
The central government – by not announcing sufficient drought relief aid and by reducing its share in NRDWP – has made it difficult for the state government to tackle the situation in the state.
Also Read: The Manual for Drought Management, 2016 Won’t Let North Karnataka Be Declared Drought-hit
However, the BJP is not reflecting or at least defending themselves in the state but they are doing what they do the best. The history of BJP in Karnataka gives us a glimpse into the tactics and the means adopted by the party to come to power in the state. This history is haunted with increased communal violence and heightened corruption.
In 1985, Kolar witnessed communal tension after the decision of BJP and RSS to celebrate Ganesh Utsav in public in grand scale; in 1990 a riot broke out with the preparation for Eid-Milad celebrations in Kolar. BJP along with RSS did a door to door campaign and mobilised the locals and protested the Eid procession being carried out in Kolar.
BJP and RSS sympathisers celebrated the laying of foundation stone of Ram temple in Ayodhya on 10 November 1989. This resulted in a series of riots in Arsikere, Hubli, and Dharwad. In 1990 the Rath Yatra of the BJP had again sparked a communal tension in the regions of the procession; this tension continued till 1992 following the Babri Masjid demolition. In 1994, a dispute around an Urdu news channel broke out. The Kannada Para Sanghas (Kannada organisation) joined hands with the Hindu fundamentalist groups in the state and opposed the initiative. This again triggered communal tensions in the state. Since 2004, BJP has become stronger and in collaboration with RSS, has been trying to polarise the state.
During the past five years, the BJP government at the Centre has neglected the state of Karnataka and has got nothing to talk about, it is seen that they are resorting to communally polarise people again, this time making the Pulwama event the centre. Newsclick will thus bring the stories of people in the state of Karnataka.
Also Read: Drought in Karnataka: A Human-made Disaster