Kolar Lok Sabha constituency: Unkept promises rankle in this land of gold mine

Congress here has fielded K.V. Gowtham to take on M. Mallesh Babu of the Janata Dal (Secular) in the Kolar Lok Sabha constituency.

Updated - April 22, 2024 01:55 pm IST

Published - April 21, 2024 08:32 pm IST - Kolar

Congress candidate Gautham K V for Kolar Constituency

Congress candidate Gautham K V for Kolar Constituency | Photo Credit: IIA Archives

The rail coach factory for which foundation stone had been laid in 2014, between Srinivasapura and Mulbagil, but scrapped later, is one of the many instances of broken promises for Kolar, says Raghunandan Reddy, a retired teacher in Srinivasapura, which is famous for mangoes. “There are no employment avenues as there are no factories. Promises of setting up mango processing centre has not been realised,” he points out at election promises of the past for Kolar remaining on paper.

Congress here has fielded K.V. Gowtham to take on M. Mallesh Babu of the Janata Dal (Secular) in the Kolar Lok Sabha constituency.

Mr. Gowtham’s candidature has been seen as a compromise between the Congress factions led by former Speaker K.R. Ramesh Kumar and seven-time MP and Food and Civil Supplies Minister K.H. Muniyappa. The deeply divided Congress’s Kolar unit witnessed a rebellion of sorts with five of its lawmakers threatening to resign in protest against moves of Mr. Muniyappa to field his son-in-law. The sulking Minister is yet to hit the campaign trail though the Congress posed a united front bringing all squabbling leaders on stage at Malur where Rahul Gandhi addressed a rally.

The Janata Dal (Secular), which is contesting in three seats as part of seat-sharing arrangement with the BJP, had to hard bargain with its partner for the seat that is held by incumbent BJP MP S. Muniswamy. Mr. Babu lost narrowly to Congress at Bangarpete during the 2023 Assembly elections.

Issues in KGF

In Kolar Gold Fields (KGF), the issue of wage settlement of about 3,000 employees of the gold mine, many of whom have already died, still rages. People like Ilangovan and Purushotham, whose families are yet to be compensated, are hopeful that they would be “adequately paid” after a “foreign company” wins the bid to recover residual gold from the processed ore. “Thousands travel from Marikuppam railway station here to Bengaluru daily in search of work with no employment avenues in KGF. There is a false hope that mines would be reopened,” said Prakash, a part-time actor who has worked in both blockbuster hits of KGF franchise and is an autorickshaw driver.

Currently, of the eight Assembly segments, including three reserved constituencies, in Kolar Lok Sabha constituency, the Congress and JD (S) have five MLAs and JD (S) three respectively. Believed to have the highest Scheduled Caste voters among the constituencies in India, the SC (right) form the highest electorate in Kolar.

Here, the big Vokkaliga, Muslim, SC (Left) and Kuruba population will have an important say in the electoral outcome. The Congress’s candidate is from SC (left), while the JD (S) candidate is a Bhovi, a touchable caste among the SCs. Though BJP does not have a large voter base, the party polled over a lakh votes combined across eight Assembly constituencies in the recent elections.

Mallesh Babu, the JD(S) candidate for Kolar Lok Sabha constituency

Mallesh Babu, the JD(S) candidate for Kolar Lok Sabha constituency | Photo Credit: HANDOUT E MAIL

Impact of agriculture

Despite a four-decade record drought, agriculture activities in most parts have not stopped here. In Kolar district, even during normal monsoon years, financially better off farmers depend on deep borewells. Those with smaller holdings double as labourers locally, which is seasonal. Apart from growing vegetables, farmers take to sericulture and animal husbandry.

“We grow the best quality mangoes. This year, the output has dropped by 70%. Yet farmers have not received adequate drought compensation,” said mango grower Ramamurthy in Srinivaspura.  At Tumdigere in Bangarpet, Thulasikumar complained of erratic power supply. “Farmers here are dependent on quality power supply to draw water from borewells. How to do agriculture without power?”

However, those in favour of guarantees like poor landless women labourers, small farmers unable to sink borewells for its prohibitive cost and roadside tea stall vendors, whose numbers are big in the constituency, spoke of the benefits that guarantees. “Guarantees have been a relief in times of price rise,” said Uma, a shopkeeper at Hanchal in Bangarpet. Krishnappa, a farmer in Chintamani, appreciated his wife for utilising guarantees well. “We recently bought a refrigerator from the money she saved from Gruhalakshmi without raising a loan,” he said.

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