In the crowded bylanes of Gandhinagar, a familiar battle plays out. Barring a few novelties such as a transgender candidate fielded here by the Bahujan Samaj Party or pockets of the constituency pledging allegiance to the AIADMK alleging neglect by the local parties; the battle call is a repeat performance of the 2008 Assembly polls.
The three-time MLA from here, Dinesh Gundu Rao of the Congress, squares off against P.C. Mohan of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Bangalore Central Member of Parliament and last time’s runner-up at the Assembly polls.
Indications are that this time round it’s an out-and-out battle between the Congress and the BJP at this a current Congress stronghold (five of seven wards are with the party). The general election mood may appear lukewarm in the more residential and middle-class areas of the city, but it’s totally old-school in these dense and highly congested thoroughfares. Early in the morning and post-lunch, candidates tour the area extensively; accompanied by festive drumbeats, multilingual pamphlets, flags and shoulder strips.
Indicative of the multi-community demographic here, most parties publish their pamphlets in at least three languages. In some areas, such as in the Marathi-dominated Saurashtrapet, that number increases.
Gandhinagar is a “mini-Hindustan in Bangalore”, said Sajjan Raj Mehta, a trader. Though Independent candidates often appeal to the “regional factor” while standing for elections here, traditionally people vote for the bigger parties. For instance, despite the large Tamil population here, the AIADMK during the hotly contested Gandhinagar bypoll last year, managed to muster only a few hundred votes.
Before the Congress’ three-term stint, AIADMK’s M. Muniyappa was legislator here. “Traders, who dominate the core ‘pete’ wards, always vote on larger issues. They’ll look to see which national leader speaks stirringly at the National College Grounds, and see what the local leaders are offering them. These wards are so badly neglected that even the promise of development has become passé,” said Mr. Mehta.
But, there’s also a strong sense of disenchantment among voters.
A study in contrasts, some areas such as Kumara Park and Seshadripuram have excellent infrastructure while others — particularly in poorer settlements and slums — languish without proper water supply or drainage.
Many living here were formerly workers in the three big mills that once brought prosperity to the area; but now they struggle to make ends meet.
Narasaiah, who worked at the Minerva Mills, says the area appears to be attracting new interest on the real estate market. “There are large complexes coming up, even a mall. But, the fact is that the older and poorer localities are utterly neglected,” he said.
His neighbour, a daily wage labourer, points out that once people from all over the State came here for jobs.
“Today, our children are struggling to land even odd-jobs. Barring the paltry ration we draw monthly, the government does not help us in any way. Why should we vote for these people?” he asked.