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Karnataka Polls: JD(S) Faces Uphill Task to Retain Mandya Bastion

The JD(S) will face stiff competition from the Congress and BJP and its rebel candidate KS Vijayananda in Mandya City.
ktk poll

Many residents of Mandya, an important city between Bengaluru and Mysore, are bitter about the lack of development compared to Karnataka’s economic and cultural hubs.

Compared to the 2018 Karnataka Assembly elections, when it swept all seven seats in the Mandya district, the JD(S) faces an uphill task to retain them this year.

Mandya district, with a sizeable population of Vokkaligas, has been the party’s traditional stronghold. However, the JD(S), locally known as ‘Dala’, faces stiff competition in the district headquarters, Mandya City. Besides facing Congress and BJP candidates, the JD(S) will face rebel candidate KS Vijayananda, whose claim to fame is his grandfather KV Shankara Gowda.

A legend in these parts, Gowda built the PES College of Engineering and the District Co-operative Central Bank in Mandya. A former MLC from the Congress, he is remembered as a people’s leader who championed education and co-operatives.

Vijayananda, a long-time JD(S) party worker denied a ticket from the Mandya constituency, quit the party and decided to contest as an independent candidate.

Madhu Chandan of the Sarvodaya Karnataka Party (SKP) is another potentially disruptive candidate with the backing of farmer unions in the region.

Hemanth (45), a Vokkaliga sugarcane farmer from H. Malligere village, Mandya Taluk, is angry with the “JD(S) dynastic politics. “There should only be two parties—the Congress and BJP. The JD(S) should get washed out; they only cut votes and prevent the formation of a stable government,” he tells Newsclick.

He also rues that women are not marrying farmers. “Women will even choose a man working in a garment store as long as he stays in Bengaluru.”

Unmarried farmers from the region angry after failing to find brides started a padayatra to the Male Mahadeshwara Hills (125 km away), in Chamrajnagar, in February.

However, according to farmer leader Sunanda Jayaram, the history of female foeticide in the region has returned to haunt the people.

As a poll sop, former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy has promised Rs 2 lakh to women who marry children of farmers.


Despite the visible anger against Dala, Vokkaligas of Mandya will likely remain with the JD(S). 

Vokkaligas do not vote for the BJP because it is Brahminshahi (pro-Brahmin). The party denied tickets to Jagadish Shettar and KS Eshwarappa citing age, but retained S Suresh Kumar (the Rajajinagar candidate) because he is a Brahmin,” says Puttaswamy, a Vokkaliga farmer from rural Mandya.

Asked about the BJP’s narrative of Vokkaliga chieftains Uri Gowda and Nanje Gowda killing Tipu Sultan, Puttaswamy was angry. “B******a (a colourful Kannada term) CT Ravi (the BJP’s Vokkaliga leader) is spreading lies. If he comes here after the election, he will get into trouble. They raised the issue only for the election. What are his educational qualifications? Is he a PhD?” 

Despite his frustration with the JD(S), Puttaswamy will vote for the party again. Due to former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda’s influence, the JD(S) is seen as the only party representing Vokkaliga interests.

However, the party has been unable to expand its base and is struggling to hold its ground. In the last three Assembly elections, the JD(S) got a 18%-20% vote share.

It has been unable to shed its image as a dynastic party. In the 2019 Lok Sabha election, Kumaraswamy’s son Nikhil lost from Mandya constituency to BJP-backed independent candidate Sumalatha Ambareesh. According to the locals, they had to teach the party a lesson. Even local JD(S) workers campaigned against Nikhil, they said.

Sarvodaya Karnataka Party

Darshan Puttannaiah, the son of late Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha president and popular farmer leader KS Puttannaiah, is one of SKP’s star candidates. Billed as a farmers’ party, the SKP has fielded eight candidates, including two from the Mandya district.

Darshan will contest from the Melukote constituency (won by his father in 2013) with the backing of Sangha members, who are campaigning for him. The party has fielded Madhu Chandan from the Mandya seat. Chandan ran a software company in California but returned to Mandya to work with farmers and started Organic Mandya, an initiative to educate them on the benefits of organic farming.

Nagaraj (34), a RSS worker, has campaigned extensively for Chandan in personal capacity. Disappointed with the “lack of development”, Nagaraj, a Vokkaliga who drives a goods vehicle, says, “Mandya city is like a village. It has not developed in the last 20 years. There are no industries here. My brother is a graduate but had to go to Udupi to find work. I also worked as an auto driver in Bengaluru. Half the drivers in Bengaluru are from Mandya.”

Nagaraj, who earns around Rs 30,000 per month but pays Rs 3,500 rent, hopes that Chandan will win. “We need educated candidates like Madhu Chandan. He worked in the USA for 15 years and owned a company. Subsequently, he returned to Mandya nine years ago. People want change. They should vote accordingly.”

Despite believing in the myth of Uri Gowda and Nanje Gowda killing Tipu Sultan, he says, “The BJP should be at the Centre, not the state. It is a 40% government. There is so much infighting. I support Madhu Chandan based on his personality. After returning from America, he joined the BJP but quit it to join the SKP.”

The Mandya seat will have a close contest between the Congress, JD(S), SKP, BJP and Vijayananda. The BJP has fielded Ashok Jayaram, the son of former minister SD Jayaram.

Though the BJP tried to penetrate the old Mysuru region through communal politics, the story of the Gowda chieftains hasn’t cut ice with the public with unemployment, the lack of development and falling farm income being the main voter concerns. The only government sugar factory, Mysore Sugar Company Limited, has been severely mismanaged and is facing losses running into crores.

As per Sangha members, the Congress will get Dalit votes, and the BJP non-Vokkaliga and upper-caste votes. All eyes are on the Vokkaligas, whose patience with the JD(S) has almost run out.

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