Karnataka

Hunsur: development issues relegated to back seat

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Interplay of caste equations and political relations gains precedence

Development issues have taken a back seat in the Hunsur by-elections where the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) are focussing on the ‘disloyalty’ or ‘betrayal’ of the disqualified MLA A.H. Vishwanath who is seeking a re-election on the BJP ticket, while the latter has sought to justify his political move.

Mr. Vishwanath, who was elected in the 2018 Assembly elections from Hunsur on a JD(S) ticket, is perceived as one of the key architects of the fall of the H.D.Kumaraswamy-led coalition government, thrusting a new election on the voters of Hunsur.

But the grip on voters created by the vortex of caste and community loyalty is bound to neutralise the ‘'disloyalty factor’ to a large extent in the days ahead. Already, the constituency is witnessing a realignment of caste and community groups with shifting loyalty, thus creating a sort of level playing field for Mr. Vishwanath.

However, the final result will depend on how the party workers, local leaders and caste factors coalesce in an election where development issues seem to be out of place in the political narrative that is current.

But for now, Mr. Vishwanath’s switch from the Congress to the JD(S) and now to the BJP elicits contradictory responses from the voters. In Hunsur town, voters in Azad Nagar did raise their voice against Mr. Vishwanath for betraying their mandate and accused him of forcing another election on them.

There is a perception among voters in this section of the town that though they voted for him in the previous elections and ensured his victory he did nothing during the one year that he was an MLA before ditching the party that had rescued him from political oblivion.

For Mr. Vishwanath, his ideological switch to suit his political survival has emerged as a handicap among a section of the voters who wondered what his next political move would be, and hence are wary of voting for him again. “We need an MLA who is approachable and can listen to our grievances and not a politician disconnected with the constituency’’, said Suhail Ahmed of Azad Nagar. A view endorsed by two other youths, Imran and Babu, also of the same locality.

Similarly, farmer Nagaraje Gowda of Hosur said people are ‘disgusted’ by Mr. Vishwanath’s “act of betrayal’’ and would vote against him.

But a few km on the outskirts of Hunsur, the residents of Banikuppe are divided on caste and community lines and are not unduly concerned about the ethics or lack of it of the perceived betrayal of mandate given in the 2018 elections.

Channa Naika, who has contested in a slew of cooperative elections and is familiar with the nitty-gritty of elections, said B. Sriramulu, Health Minister in the BJP government in the State and a prominent Valmiki community leader, had a large following among the community members in the region and hence they would support Mr. Vishwanath’s candidature.

In political discussions that take place in the region, there is hardly any reference to development or the lack of it. The interplay of caste equations and political relations gains precedence. In public rallies, development issues are referred to in passing and they fail to to strike a chord among voters.

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Printable version | Dec 8, 2019 10:34:38 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/hunsur-development-issues-relegated-to-back-seat/article30063239.ece

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