The Election Commission has placed severe restrictions on lavish campaigns by political parties
Kumaraswamy’s campaign resembles a Janata Darshan with people coming to him with requests
Congress candidate Mamta Nichani acknowledges that she is depending on the image of her father
BANGALORE: As the candidates get down to the serious business of campaigning, The Hindu caught up with a few of them in Ramanagara and Rajajinagar constituencies on Tuesday.
People of several villages in Ramanagara constituency still seem to consider their former MLA and Janata Dal (Secular) leader, H.D. Kumaraswamy, as the Chief Minister of the State considering the nature of demands and requests he has to listen to during his poll campaign.
In fact, his campaign in some of the villages on Tuesday turned out to be a Janata Darshan, as he was flooded with pleas and memorandums from people.
Mr. Kumaraswamy stopped his car at major intersections and walked across village roads greeting people. It was mostly women who flocked to him with pleas and memorandums. Even when he did not get down from the car, people rushed towards the car to air their grievances and make requests.
The most common demand was for widow pension and ration cards. Some elderly women requested him to get them old-age pension and also jobs for their children and grandchildren.
What surprised the villagers was the JD(S) leader’s low-profile campaign. “Even in normal times, a large number of cars and supporters follow him during his visits to villages. But now there are only three to four cars, including that of the police,” observed Paramashivaiah in one of the villages.
Mr. Kumaraswamy’s campaign managers said the campaign was being deliberately kept low-profile to comply with the guidelines of the Election Commission.
However, party workers in the villages had found a smart way to beat the Election Commission’s restrictions on the use of banners and buntings. They used festoons made of mango leaves and banana plants to give a festive look to the village.
Some people told The Hindu that they were of the view that Mr. Kumaraswamy should be re-elected mainly to ensure that the development schemes initiated by him in the taluk were implemented completely. Ramanagara was given prominence when he was Chief Minister because he had political clout. They wanted that prominence to continue as a large number of villages in this taluk were still awaiting infrastructure support. This prominence had to continue for another five years if the newly formed district of Ramanagara, especially its rural parts, was to match other districts in terms of all-round development, they said.
Takes the plunge
It was the first day of her door-to-door election campaign in Ramanagara town, and she was the only woman in the group of party workers. Mamta Nichani, daughter of the former Chief Minister Ramakrishna Hegde, who has been fielded as the Congress candidate from the constituency, literally took the plunge into electoral politics.
Dressed in a kurta, pyjama and a Nehru jacket, similar to what her late father used to wear, the enthusiastic Ms. Nichani walked through the town, which has a large Muslim population, for more than three hours.
A local resident would introduce her in each area as “Ramakrishna Hegde ki beti”. Then she would say, “Muje apke duva chahiye” (I want your blessings). Her main focus was on women. She tried to empathise with them by asking about their children and their education.
There were no pamphlets and placards. While three Congress flags were carried by teenagers, an autorickshaw fitted with a loudspeaker introduced her to the residents.
Speaking to The Hindu, Ms Nichani asserted that she was not a “visitor” to the constituency. “Irrespective of whether I win or not, I am going to shift my base to Ramanagara,” she said. She made it clear that she was not bothered about taking on a strong political opponent like the former Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy, “My father’s spirit is in me,” she said.
She acknowledged that she was depending upon the image as well as performance of her father. “It is actually helping me to get closer to people,” she said.
Taken by surprise
Bhashyamnagar and Prakashnagar in Rajajinagar Assembly constituency have been receiving contaminated water for a long time because of the corrosion of the water pipelines as they criss-cross the sewerage connections in these areas.
S. Suresh Kumar, Bharatiya Janata Party spokesman and candidate from Rajajinagar, said the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board should change its name to ‘Bangalore Sewage Supply Board’.
The BJP candidate, who has represented Rajajiangar twice in the Assembly, spoke to The Hindu while on a door-to-door campaign on Dr. Rajkumar Road. He said his priority would be to provide clean drinking water to the residents in his area. There were hardly a dozen party workers accompanying him.
Normally ignored by other parties because of the few scattered voters sandwiched between commercial and business establishments on the busy road, people a surprised when Mr. Kumar knocked on their door.
Another problem dogging residents and others who use Vatal Nagaraj Road is the congestion on the stretch near Okalipuram and the Khoday bridge near the railway station. The problem has not been solved despite the construction of a grade separator.
Air Force experience
He brings with him years of managerial experience in the Indian Air Force and professes to concentrate on micro-issues that are often neglected. In his door-to-door campaigns, this ex-IAF man talks of issues that touch the lives of people directly and urges them to vote instead of abstaining.
The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) candidate from Padmanabhanagar constituency in Bangalore, Wg. Cdr. (retd) G. Balakrishna Athri, moves about on foot with a small band of student volunteers distributing pamphlets. “I do not make big promises to voters. All that I am promising is provision of recreational facilities, a swimming pool, libraries, rejuvenation of lakes, toilets in slums and jogging parks for the elderly,” he says.
Stopping at a house on 36th Cross, Jayanagar 7th Block for canvassing, he says he has neither money power nor muscle power, but is dependent on individual networking. He tells the family members, “Your vote for people like us will motivate other educated people to contest elections. We have been complaining about the present breed of politicians, but have not changed them.”
His friends in theatre and music circles are also helping him in the campaign. Incidentally, the late G. Vijaykumar Athri, a popular singer, was his younger brother, whose friends are also helping him.
After having served in the IAF for 25 years, Wg. Cdr. Athri sought voluntary retirement in 2001 and served as the Chief Programme Officer at the Indian Institute of Management-Bangalore before joining the BSP in December. On the reasons for joining BSP, he says, “I am against both religious and dynastic politics. BSP does not promote either.”
He feels that the strict model code of conduct being enforced by the Election Commission is helping candidates like him who do not have muscle or money power.