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Chandre Gowda faces tough task

By Muralidhara Khajane

CHIKMAGALUR, APRIL 17. It is a triangular contest in the Sringeri Assembly constituency from where the Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs, D.B. Chandre Gowda, is seeking re-election. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has fielded D.N. Jeevaraj, who was defeated in the 1994 and 1999 elections, and the Janata Dal (S) its district unit President, H.T. Rajendra.

The constituency has elected Congress candidates eight times, Janata Party candidates twice and a Janata Dal candidate once.

The constituency originally comprised Tirthahalli, Koppa and Sringeri taluks in 1952. In 1957, Tirthahalli was taken away from the constituency and Narasimharajapura included. Kadidal Manjappa became the first member of the Legislative Assembly from the constituency in 1952 by defeating K. Ramakrishna Rao of the Bharatiya Jan Sangh (BJS). In 1957, he was elected unopposed as the Congress candidate and became the Chief Minister. Mr. Manjappa retained his seat in 1962.

K.N. Veerappa Gowda of the Congress who replaced Mr. Manjappa in 1967 defeated Srikanta Bhat of the BJS. He retained the seat in 1972, again defeating Mr. Bhat. In 1978, after the Congress split, Mr. Veerappa Gowda contested as an Urs Congress candidate and lost to Begane Ramaiah of the Congress (Indira).

The credit for snatching the Sringeri Assembly constituency from the clutches of the Congress goes to H.G. Govinda Gowda of the Janata Party. He defeated Mr. Ramaiah in 1983. Mr. Govinda Gowda retained the seat in 1985 by defeating U.K. Shamanna of the Congress by a wafer-thin margin of 133 votes. But Mr. Shamanna defeated Mr. Govinda Gowda in 1989 by a margin of 13,790 votes. Mr. Govinda Gowda contested again in 1994 as the Janata Dal candidate and defeated D.N. Jeevaraj of the BJP. He retired from active politics in 1999.

Mr. Chandre Gowda contested on the Congress ticket in 1999 and defeated Mr. Jeevaraj.

It is not going to be a cakewalk for Mr. Chandre Gowda this time, as he is faced with the anti-incumbency factor. People are not happy with the way he handled sensitive issues such as the eviction of "encroachers" from the Tathkola Reserve Forest area in Moodigere taluk, the delay in issuing pattas to the tribal people living in the Kudremukh National Park area and the stand taken by him during the Datta Jayanti celebrations.

Congress sources say that although Mr. Chandre Gowda has not lagged behind in ensuring development of the constituency, he is facing opposition from a section of party workers.

According to Janata Dal (S) sources, although Mr. Govinda Gowda has retired from active politics, he still has a say in the constituency, and he is not favourably inclined towards Mr. Chandre Gowda.

It is also believed that the support extended by Samana Manaska Vedike floated by H.G. Venkatesh, son of Mr. Govinda Gowda to the Congress will help the Chikmagalur Lok Sabha candidate, B.L. Shankar, but not Mr. Chandre Gowda.

BJP sources claim that the "Vajpayee wave" will help Mr. Jeevaraj who lost to Mr. Chandre Gowda by a margin of 4,571 votes last time.

Mr. Rajendra of the Janata Dal (S) is putting up a stiff fight against his rivals.

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