Bangera has contested on Congress, BJP and Janata Dal tickets

K. Vasantha Bangera dismissed his bête noire Ranjan Gowda as a rookie in politics more familiar with cricket than politics who fancied becoming an MLA without rising through the ranks. But, Mr. Gowda hit back saying the constituency needed a new face. As in the past Assembly elections, this time too, Belthangady is battleground for two candidates from long-rival families. But there the similarity ends. The rest is a saga of differences between two unlike candidates. One is Congress candidate K. Vasantha Bangera, a four-time MLA. The other is BJP-fielded Ranjan Gowda, a young newbie, son of K. Gangadhara Gowda, former Congress minister, the veteran’s long-time adversary.

Mr. Bangera and Gowda senior, both hopped through parties over three decades. Mr. Bangera has contested on the Congress, BJP and JD tickets, fending off competition from within the family too, trouncing K. Prabhakara Bangera, his brother, of the BJP in the last elections.

Speaking to The Hindu Mr. Bangera agreed that he himself allowed BJP gain a foothold in the constituency when he contested and won on a BJP ticket in the 1980s.

Mr. Bangera said the constituency, with 81 villages, highest in any taluk in the district, has 90 km of roads built under Gram Sadak Yojana. He said, “There are 740 files regarding roads and bridges in Belthangady, which we have identified and sent proposals for, lying pending with the Central government for the past three years.” He alleged that the State government has “diverted” the funds for the works sanctioned from the Union government. Funds (of Rs.357 crore, 60 per cent from the Centre, 40 per cent from the State) have been used for drinking water, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and power, he said.

He said a new road is not possible to Yelaneeru, a remote village in the taluk, but the century-old 10 km road connecting it to Belthangady and passing through protected areas, could be repaired.

Mr. Bangera said tribes in the taluk safeguard forests and earn a livelihood by selling forest produce. “We should not trouble them. We have to give them infrastructure. They are used to and must have their forests to live in. If they are left untroubled, the Naxalites will not come,” he said. They number 400 and not a significant number electorally for him.

He said the State government should introduce monthly pensions, following the Kerala model for the endosulfan victims, (2,000 in 18 villages of the taluk, said Sridhar Gowda, president, Endosulfan Virodhi Horata Samiti). Mr. Gowda said he would focus on infrastructure, especially roads, water, and all the party programmes (pensions, girl child, milk subsidy scheme, bicycle for students, health schemes).

According to him, communal clashes predated the BJP “because the Congress created these things.”

He said that some thought will be given to the issue of endosulfan victims once the new government comes to power

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