All the heat and dust on the emotive issue is forgotten by parties during electioneering
Though Cauvery is the lifeline for farmers in the southern belt of the old Mysore region which covers Mysore, Mandya, Chamarajanagar and Hassan districts, the heat and dust generated on the emotive issue does not translate into an election issue.
Farmers’ leaders say the three major political parties — the Congress, the BJP and the Janata Dal (Secular) — have collectively failed to uphold the interest of the farmers of the region.
Kurubur Shanthakumar, president, Karnataka Sugarcane Cultivators’ Association, told The Hindu that none of the MPs drawn from the three parties has projected Karnataka’s viewpoint on the Cauvery issue before the Prime Minister. Farmers are, however, aware that complying with the directives of the apex court to abide by the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal award is imperative, he added.
In Mandya, which is the bedrock of all Cauvery agitations, the issue curiously does not figure during elections. It is significant that the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS), under whose banner farmers come together, has been represented only once (1994) when K.S. Puttanaiah contested and won from the Pandavpura Assembly Constituency but lost on two subsequent occasions.
In the shifting political sands of the State, the Cauvery basin has traditionally remained a citadel of the Congress and the Janata Parivar since the 1990s or Janata Dal (Secular) in more recent years.
The voter loyalty in the Vokkaliga-dominated region remains divided and swings between the Congress and the JD(S).
Of the 33 Assembly seats in Mysore, Mandya, Chamarajanagar and Hassan, in the 2004 elections, the JD(S) won 22, the Congress five and the BJP three. But in 2008, the Congress made a come back with 16 seats, while the JD(S) lost ground and won 10 seats, and the BJP retained two seats. The rising tide of the BJP elsewhere in the State was stemmed by the results emerging from the Cauvery basin. It drew a blank in Chamarajanagar, Mandya and Hassan, while winning in only two of 11 Assembly seats in Mysore.
In the coming Assembly elections, the Congress perceives “a wave” in its favour and is upbeat about its prospects.
But the JD(S), apart from harping on the BJP’s poor governance, is hoping that the perceived negative sentiments against the Congress-led UPA at the Centre will tilt the scale in its favour.
But it is the BJP which will be at a disadvantage in the region due to the three-way split of its voters, considering that the Karnataka Janata Paksha (KJP) and the BSR Congress marred the party’s chances in the Mysore City Corporation Council elections. The BJP won only 12 seats in its traditional urban base and its prospects were botched by the KJP and the BSR Congress, who thwarted it in at least eight seats. In the urban local body polls, of 523 seats in the four districts, the BJP won only 42, while the Congress won 258 and the JD(S) 223.
The five years of BJP misrule, drought and lack of power will be hammered home by both the Congress and the JD(S). In an election in which governance or lack of it will come to the fore, it is disadvantage BJP in the Cauvery heartland.