Hegde’s daughter takes on Gowda junior in Karnataka

May 5th, 2008 - 1:03 pm ICT by admin  

By Fakir Balaji
Ramanagaram (Karnataka), May 5 (IANS) In this rocky terrain made famous by the all time blockbuster “Sholay”, a battle royale is being played out for the Karnataka assembly polls. The dramatis personae are the creme de la creme of state politics - Mamta Hegde Nichani, daughter of former chief minister Ramakrishna Hegde, and H.D. Kumaraswamy, former chief minister and son of former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda. The task is cut out for both. The constituency is located about 40 km from Bangalore, once represented by Hegde (1983-85) as well as Gowda (1994-96).

Now both Mamta and Kumaraswamy are seeking to make Ramanagaram, the Ramgarh of “Sholay” that was filmed here, their own when the constituency goes to the polls May 10.

Kumaraswamy is seeking re-election on the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) ticket after winning in 2004 for the first time and going on to become chief minister in February 2006 to rule the state for 20 months in alliance with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

In a surprise move, the Congress decided to field Mamta, who joined the party two years ago, to take on Kumaraswamy in a triangular contest that also has N. Rudresh of the BJP. Four independents are in the fray too.

Although a novice in electoral politics, 51-year-old Mamta launched her campaign a day after filing her nomination April 24.

With the backing of the Congress, she has been extensively touring the vast constituency across the newly-formed Ramanagaram district and about 200 far-flung villages in four taluks (hoblis).

Constrained by the Election Commission’s strict code of conduct and restriction on use of vehicles and publicity material, Mamta has been undertaking door-to-door canvassing and road-side meetings.

She is banking on the goodwill and respect her late father.

“I had the privilege of accompanying my father for campaigning in this constituency 25 years ago and in almost every state and parliamentary election since then. Though I entered politics two years ago, I am not new to electioneering, as I too canvassed for him and his party (Janata Dal) and learnt a lot to woo voters,” Mamta told IANS at Harohalli during a pause in campaigning.

Conscious of her limitations as a woman and a Brahmin in a caste-ridden constituency dominated by the powerful Vokkaliga community to which Kumaraswamy belongs, Mamta is betting on the ‘hand’ symbol of her party (Congress), with which a majority of the electorate are still familiar with. The pro-poor and pro-women schemes the party launched when in power under S.M. Krishna (1999-2004) are also expected to help.

Kumaraswamy, on the other hand, is counting on the image he created during his 20-month rule as chief minister, especially among the youth. He is confident of retaining his seat with a huge margin this time.

But the ‘betrayal’ tag for not transferring power in October 2007 to the BJP, resulting in early election, haunts. So Kumaraswamy is not taking chances.

Wary of the Congress strategy to deliberately field Mamta under an astrological belief that any member of the Gowda family would lose the poll battle if pitted against a woman candidate, Kumaraswamy is campaigning more seriously than before.

“I don’t have to prove my credentials to the electorate. The good work I have done during my 20-month tenure as chief minister and the care with which I have nursed this constituency since my father (Deve Gowda) represented it (1994-96) is well-known to the people, who treat me as a member of their family,” an upbeat Kumaraswamy said.

Post-delimitation, the constituency has undergone a slight change, with some territories of the adjacent Kanakapura assembly becoming a part of it and losing out some areas to the latter.

Considered a traditional bastion of the JD-S in the old Mysore region, Ramanagaram town has benefited from its proximity to boom city Bangalore. Its interior areas, including several villages, however, remain backward, lacking in basic amenities such as proper roads, drinking water, healthcare facilities and poor power supply.

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