The hilly Kodagu district, which has two Assembly constituencies — Madikeri and Virajpet, has been a bastion of the BJP for the last two decades, with Hindutva being an important plank. But this time, the BJP is facing pressure, particularly in Virajpet.
Virajpet constituency has been represented by K.G. Bopaiah from the Arre Bashe Gowda community for the last three terms, and he is in the fray for another term. Virajpet is dominated by Kodavas, who seem unhappy with Mr. Bopaiah getting a fourth chance. This has brightened the chances of Congress candidate A.S. Ponnanna.
Both BJP and Congress are convinced that they are in for a neck-to-neck fight.
A BJP member from Virajpet admitted to anti-incumbency. “People of the constituency wanted someone else to be given a ticket. So now, we are only focusing on Hindutva and Modi to win the election.”
Mr Ponnanna is a former additional advocate general of Karnataka and son of firebrand politician late A.K. Subbaiah. Subbaiah was the first president of BJP in the State but later turned a bitter critic of the party.
According to Congress members, Mr Ponnanna had started the groundwork three years ago. “Mr Ponnanna started to re-build the party in the constituency. Influenced by him, many members of BJP joined Congress. However, hardcore Hindutva believers are campaigning against Mr Ponnanna, and this may affect us,” a Congress member said.
What candidates say
Mr Bopaiah told The Hindu that he will win the election again, and insists the Kodava community is not unhappy with him. “We are going with the Hindutva and development agenda. The people in the constituency have rejected caste politics long ago. Hence, I have been elected continuously, and people only see the development. I have done a lot of work during the flood and landslides in 2018, Covid-19 pandemic and for developing infrastructure,” he said.
The BJP has been the taking help of Addanda Cariappa, director of Rangayana in Mysuru, who was in a controversy recently for his play Tippuvina nija kanasugalu (Real dreams of Tipu). He has been campaigning for Mr Bopaiah, who has been warning voters that Tipu Jayanthi will be celebrated if Congress is comes to power.
Responding to this strategy of the BJP, Mr Ponnanna, said, “They (BJP) do not have anything to talk about in terms of development. Tipu Jayanti is a dead issue, and will not be celebrated. I have been working to solve various issues, such as health infrastructure, waste management, drinking water and saving the environment in the constituency, which are the real issues.”