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It's BJP pride against JD(S) might here

Sudipto Mondal

Candidates of all three major parties in Channapatna belong to the Vokkaliga community


— Photos: Bhagya Prakash K.

Wooing the electorate:(From left) Janata Dal (Secular) candidate Sim Lim Nagaraj seeks blessings from an aged woman during his campaign in the Channapatna Assembly constituency while Bharatiya Janata Party's C.P. Yogeshwar seems to bank on the charm of ‘Dream Girl' Hema Malini even as


CHANNAPATNA: The changing face of the economy in the State capital is said to have brought both ruin and unimaginable riches to the people of this taluk, 60 km from Bangalore. And nothing reflects this contradiction better than the candidates in the fray.

With their flashy cars, Blackberry phones, branded clothes and cultivated sophistication, Bharatiya Janata Party's C.P. Yogeshwar and Congress's Raghunandan Ramanna represent the sunny side life here. Janata Dal (Secular) candidate Sim Lim Nagaraj's wild beard, leathery tan, Paragon slippers and 400 square feet hut topped with an asbestos sheet seems to embody life as it is for a large section of Channapatna's 1,83,000 voters. Their only point of coincidence is that all three are from the Vokkaliga community, which has 80,000 voters.

That Mr. Ramanna is a U.S.-returned techie-turned-politician getting his first taste of dust and dirt on a campaign trail is evident from the fact that barely anybody knows him here. His supporters are often left invoking the names of his great grandfather and grandfather, both Congressmen, while trying to introduce him.

He appears to carry the air of a “prince returning to claim his legacy”. Even Congress workers say that he has been fielded since no Congress leader was willing to sink money into a risky venture that can at best mean two years in office.

The real fight say the people here is between Mr. Yogeshwar and Mr. Nagaraj. Both their parties put up a show of power on Wednesday. The 4,000-odd people who turned up to get a glimpse of BJP MP Hema Malini could be seen deserting the venue as soon as she finished her speech where she remarked how much Channapatna has changed since she was shooting for her film Sholay in the early 1970s.

A kilometre up the road, the Janata Dal (Secular) held a meeting which was attended by senior party leaders H. D. Deve Gowda, H.D. Kumaraswamy, Zameer Ahmed, where over 10,000 people turned up.

The victory of Mr. Yogeshwar, a former Congressman, is a matter of pride as well of strategic interest to the BJP, which does not have a single elected Vokkaliga leader in this belt. No stone is being left unturned with party heavyweights V. Somanna, S.A. Ramdas, Suresh Kumar, B.N. Bache Gowda, R. Ashok and MLC Ashwath Narayan having campaigned hard for his victory by wooing people from their respective castes. Mr. Yogeshwar, however, remained elusive throughout the day and avoided an interview.

Mr. Nagaraj, a former gram panchayat member, who has been with the Janata Dal (Secular) since its inception, might be fighting at this level for the first time but is still a household name. A remarkable feature of his campaign was how he managed to refer to almost every voter by name. “I have been a grassroots worker here for 45 years,” he says.

What might work in his favour is people's anger against Janata Dal (Secular) MLA M.C. Ashwath, whose defection to the BJP brought about this election. He has been lying low in this campaign. The Janata Dal (Secular), which considers this region part of its heartland, won 15 of the 19 taluk panchayat seats and five zilla panchayat seats.

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