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Southern States - Karnataka

Bypoll: Campaigning ends with `high hopes'

By Our Staff Correspondent

Mysore May 29. The campaigning for the byelection to the Assembly from the Narasimharaja constituency concluded today with each contender confident of a "sure victory".

Though nine candidates are in the fray, only the Congress, the Janata Parivar, and the BJP are calling the shots in this battle of the ballot. But caste and religious factors in the N.R. Constituency have put the BJP at a disadvantage, which the party leaders are reluctant to concede in public but admit in private.

There are 1.97 lakh voters in the constituency, of whom 65,000 are Muslims. The rest are Vokkaligas, Kurubas, dalits, Nayakas, and other backward class groups. Muslims are in a majority in Shantinagar, Ghousianagar, Bade Makan, parts of Mandi Mohalla, Bannimantap and a few other places, and the candidates' political prospects depend on their votes.

It is this aspect the Congress and the Janata Parivar have exploited to the hilt. Hence, the multi-cornered battle has whittled down to a direct contest between Tanvir Sait of the Congress and E. Maruti Rao Pawar of the Janata Parivar. The BJP candidate, B.P. Manjunath, is no longer perceived to be in the reckoning going by the latest trends. The erosion of the BJP's mass base, and switching of allegiance by the party workers to the JD(S) along with Mr. Pawar have compounded its problems.

The sole criteria for the Congress to field Mr. Tanvir Sait was that he is the son of Azeez Sait who was elected from this constituency since 1967 except on two occasions. But this calculation has not gone down well with the voters, who perceive him to be overbearing. Pitted against Mr. Pawar, who has a solid mass base and credentials to have worked for the development of the constituency, the going is indeed tough for Mr. Tanvir Sait.

Though the constituency has been a traditional Congress bastion, the party tried its best to improve its image among the voters who are vocal about the lack of basic amenities and hold the Congress responsible for it.

The Congress represented the constituency for almost four decades, yet Narasimharaja continues to be one of the most neglected areas of Mysore. This haunted the party during its campaign.

A senior Congress leader tried to instil confidence among the party workers saying "people see Azeez Sait in Tanvir Sait". But this is not true if the mood of the voters is taken into consideration. All parties, including the Congress, exploited caste sentiments in a flagrant manner during their campaign. Efforts were made to woo members of the Savitha Samaja, Kurubas, Vishwakarmas, and Christians in the constituency.

Sources said hosting dinner parties was a regular feature, and so was calling on spiritual gurus or mathadipathis to seek their blessings.

The Congress and the Janata Parivar competed with one another in hosting dinner parties and calling on religious heads.

But the BJP bandwagon did not gain the kind of momentum gained by the Congress and the Janata Parivar. The BJP put in a token appearance in the past two days and it did not have a semblance of presence in areas dominated by Muslims.

This perturbed the Congress, which was banking on the BJP to split the votes among Hindus.

It is going to be a closely fought battle in which the votes of minorities, including Veershaivas, Kurubas, members of the Savita Samaja, Nayakas, Vishwakarmas, and Christians will be important for the Congress and the Janata Parivar.

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