Ground Report: A battle of visions, schemes and guarantees in the Mysuru-Kodagu Lok Sabha constituency

While Congress banks on its schemes in the state, BJP is hopeful that its candidate of royal lineage will help it win the seat.

ByNolan Patrick Pinto

Published Apr 18, 2024 | 10:59 AMUpdatedApr 18, 2024 | 11:36 AM

Ground Report: A battle of visions, schemes and guarantees in the Mysuru-Kodagu Lok Sabha constituency

The Mysuru-Kodagu Lok Sabha constituency in Karnataka is witnessing a close fight between Congress and BJP, which is in alliance with JD(S).

The Congress candidate in the constituency is M Lakshman, from the dominant Vokkaliga community. He is also a spokesman for the party.

Having unsuccessfully contested other elections in the past, Lakshman is gearing up for what will be his first Lok Sabha poll.

Chief Minister and Congress leader Siddaramaiah has been spending considerable time in the constituency and holding meetings since this is his home turf.  He has also been appealing to supporters that a win here was crucial to assert his hold on the party.

Likewise, Deputy Chief Minister and Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president DK Shivakumar, who also belongs to the Vokkaliga community, has gone to the extent of telling community leaders that if they wanted to see a chief minister from among them, a victory in this constituency was required.

Congress is also banking on the guarantee schemes of the state government having an impact — especially on women voters.

Meanwhile, BJP has fielded Yaduveer Krishnadatta Chamaraja Wadiyar, who is contesting an election for the first time. He is the scion of the erstwhile Mysuru Royal family.

BJP decided against renominating sitting MP Pratap Simha, who won from the constituency in 2014 and 2019.

While the Mysuru royal family has a considerable influence on the people of Mysuru, Yaduveer cannot take it easy.

Srikantadatta Narasimharaj Wadiyar had won four out of the six elections he contested from the same constituency.

The initial euphoria towards Yaduveer has now petered down, giving rise to a close battle with the Congress candidate.

While Vokkaligas form a major chunk of the population, the constituent population also consists of Dalits, Kurubas, Lingayats, Muslims, and Kodavas.

Eight Assembly constituencies make up this Lok Sabha segment — six in Mysuru and two in Kodagu. Out of them, Congress controls five, JD(S) has two, and BJP one.

South First hit the trail in the constituency to feel the people’s pulse and bring you this ground report.

Interview: Mysuru-Kodagu BJP candidate Yaduveer wants to script his own destiny

What voters want

South First travelled across a few Assembly constituencies that make up the Mysore-Kodagu Lok Sabha seat.

The first stop was in Periyapatna, which is called the land of tobacco. The rural areas still lack good roads, proper drainage systems, efficient garbage collection, and electricity supply.

In the Makodu village in the Periyapatna taluk, citizens complain that the panchayat first needed to get its act together.

“For any development to take place here, panchayat officials, the panchayat president and the panchayat development officer need to all work,” said Ramesh, a resident of the village, adding no amount of visits be it the chief minister or local MP would be useful.

Mani, who runs a small hotel, was disappointed that nothing changed no matter which party won. He told South First to have a look at the village and be the judge.

“Go take a look for yourselves. There are no proper roads. The drains are cleaned once after a festival. That’s about it. Just look at the state of affairs in this village, how dirty it is,” he said, adding: “Development takes place in only bits and pieces.”

The next stop was Madikeri, the headquarters of the Kodagu district. Here, Kodagu Seva Kendra president Thammoo Poovaiah told South First that the district needed good infrastructure. According to him, the incumbent MP Pratap Simha had neglected the district in the past 10 years.

Thammoo pointed out that the economy of the Kodagu district was dependent upon coffee, with some 35,000 families involved in growing 1.4 lakh tonnes of coffee and 36,000 tonnes of black pepper. This amounted to around ₹4,000 crore, he said.

Hence the planters were self-sufficient and did not expect much from their MP — just some good infrastructure, like schools.

“They do not want any help from these political people. They are doing their job. They have children who have to go to school. They need good schools and hostels — good education. These are necessities,” said Thammoo.

In Virajapete town, environmental activist Rajeev Kariappa told South First that the candidates need to fully understand the problems of the people of Kodagu.

Speaking about the current water situation, he said, “The rains were very deficient last year, so there is not much water. There is hardly any drinking water. I have seen a well that never went dry for 50 years: There is no water in it today.”

Colonel Muthanna — a former president of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), member of the Coorg Wildlife Society, and founder of the Environment and Health Foundation India — told South First that man-animal conflict could not be compartmentalised or looked at in silos.

He said he wanted the candidates — or whoever won the election, for that matter — to give special attention to this issue.

“At the micro-level, some 150-200 elephants have become almost permanent residents outside the forests. They have to be removed and a budget should be allocated for that. They have to be put into the forests in an enclosure, and only released only when the barrier is fool-proof,” he said, adding that invasive species and forest fires also needed to be managed immediately.

In Mysuru, citizens were more or less satisfied with the work being undertaken and the general cleanliness of the city. In the Gokulam area, where yoga was being taught, a few of the people South First interacted with wanted the candidates to maintain the name of Mysuru as the Yoga capital of India.

“Keep all the traditions alive. We need more trees. We are losing trees and we need these to be preserved,” said Ritesh.

Russian national Mira was in Mysuru to learn yoga. She chimed in: “Mysuru for me is like a place where I can truly practise with teachers of lineage and learn yoga as much as I can.”

A resident from the VV Mohalla area said the candidates needed to focus on preserving Mysuru’s heritage and history.

Selma said, “When I visited the Chamundi Hills recently after a long time, I was stunned to see the changes. Gone is the sanctity of the place. It was only greenery around with just the Temple. We could walk around comfortably and view the city of Mysuru while sitting on the stone steps. Now, it’s commercialised and garbage is strewn everywhere.”

Related: ‘King vs ordinary citizen’ battle erupts in Mysuru

What can voters expect?

South First met BJP candidate Yaduveer Krishnadatta Chamaraja Wadiyar before he began campaigning in the Makodu village in the Periyapatna taluk. He paid obeisance at a local temple before embarking on his campaign.

On why people of this constituency must pick him, he said, “In the last 10 years, the work done by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP has been tremendous. It has benefited a large number of people across the country, including in the Mysuru-Kodagu area as well.”

He added: “There have been a lot of development works that benefited the people here, and a lot more are already in the process of being implemented.”

He continued: “Alongside that, the various schemes that have come in have also benefited people locally. People will vote on that basis, besides the fact that we require an organic development of both districts in the sense that we pride our heritage and our nature in both areas developing organically.”

So, what made Yaduveer take this plunge into electoral politics from the confines of the Mysuru palace.

He said: “We need to do social service at a bigger level. In today’s system, it is best done through politics by being the people’s representative. Politics obviously becomes a little bit more during election time, but we have to conduct our affairs by taking everybody along after that.”

Congress candidate M Lakshman was in Kallahalli village of the Hunsur taluk with his supporters to pay his respects at the samadhi of D Devaraj Urs, one of the longest-serving chief ministers of Karnataka. He said he was confident that he had the support of people in the constituency.

“I have my own vision. For the last 10 years, the BJP representative has done nothing except flaring up communal violence. Mysuru and Kodagu have great potential to tap tourism, and this was not done at all,” he said.

Lakshman added that he believed the guarantee schemes by the Congress-run state government had been accepted well by the people, and that this would help him in the election.

“Around 95 percent of the people are beneficiaries of one or the other of the schemes. So, people are interested in voting for Congress,” he claimed.

(Edited by Arkadev Ghoshal)