It’s ‘David’ versus ‘Goliath’ for polls in BangaloreApril 22nd, 2009 - 2:19 pm ICT by IANS
By Fakir Balaji
Bangalore, April 22 (IANS) The high-profile Bangalore South parliamentary constituency in India’s tech hub is set for an epic battle Thursday between Congress Young Turk Krishna Byre Gowda and Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) veteran H.N. Ananth Kumar.
The Congress sprung a surprise by fielding the 36-year-old Gowda to dethrone the four-time parliamentarian, who is fighting against heavy odds to retain the seat in a multi-cornered contest with 18 other candidates in the fray.
Creating a twist in the tale, India’s low-cost airline (Air Deccan) pioneer captain G.R. Gopinath has thrown down his gauntlet as an independent, with an eye on the same votes Ananth Kumar and Gowda are vying for.
Gowda, a third-time legislator in the Karnataka assembly and state Youth Congress president, made inroads into Ananth Kumar’s bastion by drawing huge crowds, especially the youth and first-time voters, in a cosmopolitan constituency that is home to thousands of software engineers.
The presence of a youthful Gowda and a dashing Gopinath on his home turf has forced Ananth Kumar to not only mount a high-voltage campaign but also dig in his heels to guard his vote bank that has developed cracks due to anti-incumbency, crumbling infrastructure, moral policing and a shift in the demographic profile of the two million electorate, one of the largest in the state.
Gopinath is being backed by the captains of the IT and biotech industries, who have been egging him on to enter the battle of the ballot.
“It’s essentially a fight between a Congress ‘David’ and a BJP ‘Goliath’ with independent Gopinath playing spoilsport. We have never seen such a spirited fight in this constituency for a long time,” said Ramu Hegde, a resident of Basavangudi in the heart of Bangalore South, likening the politicians to the Biblical warriors.
Even in an urban constituency dominated by educated professionals, the caste factor continues to haunt the key contestants. A division of votes on caste lines can make a difference between victory and defeat.
With the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) fielding seasoned English don K.E. Radhakrishna, a Brahmin, Ananth Kumar and Gopinath, who are also Brahmins, face an uphill task to prevent votes on cast lines splitting three ways.
In contrast, Gowda, who belongs to the politically dominant Vokkaliga caste, is sitting pretty as he would not have to worry about division of votes with no rival from his caste in the fray.
“In a high-profile constituency like this, caste may not play a role as voters here are smart, well-informed and make issue-based choice. Even if it does, division of votes among the three Brahmin candidates and consolidation of Vokkaliga votes will be an advantage,” the US-returned Gowda told IANS.
Since the 2004 elections, a fractured verdict in the state level, political instability and indifference of two coalition governments till November 2007 have taken a toll on the city’s infrastructure and project execution.
“I have appealed to the younger generation to vote for change and those who are disenchanted with the intolerance being spread by the BJP. There is also anti-incumbency in the constituency as well as against Kumar,” Gowda asserted.
Moral policing, attacks on churches and women will influence voters, he hoped.
“Bangalore is still suffering from infrastructure issues. We have to make the city liveable, loveable and global. That’s going to be my pursuit,” said Gowda.
Admitting that intervention by party general secretary Rahul Gandhi had enabled him to get the ticket, Gowda said Gandhi wanted more youngsters to contest in these elections.
“Dislodging a sitting MP is a bit of challenge. It’s time for youth and experience to step in for bringing about a change that US President Barak Obama was able to,” Gowda said.
To neutralise Gowda’s youthful appeal and Gopinath’s aggressive approach to the electorate across the constituency, Ananth Kumar is betting more on chemistry than math.
With five of the eight assembly segments of the parliamentary constituency represented by the BJP and three by the Congress, Ananth Kumar is also counting on his party legislators to ensure his victory.
Congress veteran legislator V. Somanna, representing Govindraj Nagar, recently defected to the BJP after resigning from the seat.
The decline in voting percentage to 49 percent in 2004 polls from 54 percent in 1999 has been another worrying factor for Kumar, who won for the fourth consecutive term by a margin of 62,271 by defeating M. Krishnappa of the Congress.
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