With the Karnataka Assembly elections 2023 just weeks away, South First is bringing you ground reports from key constituencies. This series brings you voices from the ground, the mood of the voters, and issues that matter — as well as those that don’t — as people make up their minds on who they will elect in the upcoming Assembly elections.
Around 60-70-foot-tall coconut and areca nut trees on both sides of the roads speak volumes about the lifestyle of the agrarians of the Chikkanayakanahalli Assembly segment in the Tumakuru district of Karnataka.
Without depending on one single crop, majority of the farmers cultivate areca nuts in between coconut trees. This has bailed them out from the financial crisis in the region. Falling prices of their crop in recent times has left the farmers worried.
57-year-old Shankaraiah, a farmer and resident of Tharabenahalli, told South First: “At present, the market for coconut and copra is not overwhelming. We had bumper crop this season, but the prices have plummeted by at least 50 percent in the last few months. The market variation has to be regulated by the government.”
He continued: “I have also cultivated areca nut over about two acres and got a good yield and a good price for the crop as well. Coconut is the major crop in the region. However, for the last few years, areca nut cultivation has surged rapidly.”
He continued: “We are not facing any dearth of water for irrigation because incumbent MLA JC Madhuswamy, the minister for law and parliamentary affairs, succeeded in bringing water from the Hemavathi river and implemented minor irrigation projects in the region. This has helped the farmers to a greater extent in the region.”
Peek into Chikkanayakanhalli and its issues
Chikkanayakanahalli is a small town and the taluka headquarters, located about 70 km from the state’s capital Bengaluru. The total population of the Assembly segment is around 2.5 lakh, with a mix of rural and urban areas.
Agriculture is the main occupation in this area, with crops like coconut, areca nut, and ragi being cultivated largely. The local economy is driven by agriculture.
The Tumakuru district is the highest producer of coconut in the state. The coconut is cultivated over 1.45 lakh hectares in the region. Of the total coconut cultivation, around 25,000 hectares are in Chikkanayakanahalli alone.
Venkatesh, a farmer and a resident of Chikkanayakanahalli, told South First: “The ruling BJP government has not responded to the agrarian issues to the expected level. Injustice has been done to farmers. The prices of coconut, copra, and areca nut are plunging every day.”
He added: “The cost of fertilisers, motor pumps and pipes have skyrocketed. With the increased production cost, farmers will not be left with any profits after selling the produce. The government should have responded to the major concerns of farmers.”
The people of this Assembly segment do not have access to good education or healthcare, and also lack employment opportunities, to the extent where most of them are largely dependent on Tumakuru and Bengaluru.
When it comes to employment, many youths commute every day to either Tiptur or Tumakuru, where there are large, medium, and small-scale industries.
“Chikkanayakanhalli is a small town. Most of the students prefer Tumakuru and Bengaluru for higher education. This town has a degree college but not a single institution that offers professional courses. The elected representatives have to work on improving the education sector in the segment,” Basavaraj, a retired government employee and resident of Kandikere village, told South First.
Triangular fight likely
In the upcoming Assembly polls, the Chikkanayakanahalli Assembly seat is likely to witness a nail-biting contest between the BJP, the Congress, and the JD(S).
In the last 16 Assembly polls including the 1997 by-poll, the Congress won six times, the JD(S) thrice, the BJP twice, and the Janata Dal (United) and the Praja Socialist Party won once, as did an independent candidate.
Though there are speculations that JC Madhuswamy, who has represented the segment four times, could ditch the BJP ahead of the Assembly polls and contest from Tiptur, his preparations for the April-May Assembly polls in Chikkanayakanahalli are on in full swing.
The JD(S) has announced its ticket to three-time MLA CB Suresh Babu, who has managed to remain in the good books of the voters. He belongs to the Kuruba community, which is one of the influential communities in the segment. Madhuswamy himself is a Lingayat.
The Congress is yet to announce a candidate. However, former BJP MLA KS Kiran Kumar, who is a staunch loyalist of former chief minister BS Yediyurappa, is likely to be the face of the party.
Between 2004 to 2008, he represented the erstwhile Kallambella Assembly seat, which disappeared following the delimitation of constituencies in 2008.
In the 2008 and 2013 Assembly polls, Kiran contested on a BJP ticket against Madhuswamy, who was then associated with the JD(U) and the Karnataka Janata Paksha (KJP), respectively. However, Suresh Babu emerged victorious in both polls.
In February this year, Kiran not only resigned from the chairman post of the Karnataka State Bio-energy Development Board but also quit the BJP and announced his affiliation with the Congress.
According to sources, “He was forced to sacrifice his BJP ticket to Madhuswamy, who migrated from the Janata Dal (United) to the BJP, on the request of Yediyurappa in the 2018 Assembly polls. He was promised a ticket for the 2023 Assembly polls. As he did not get any assurances from the BJP party high command, he joined the Congress.”
Political commentators believe that Kiran, who is from the Lingayat community, joining the Congress is likely to divide the BJP votes to a certain extent in the upcoming Assembly elections.
Chandraiah, a resident of Savigehalli who keeps a keen interest in politics of the region, told South First: “There is a close fight between all the three political parties in this seat. The incumbent MLA has carried out many development works — from laying new roads to implementing minor irrigation projects to filling water tanks — in the last five years.”
He added: “Kiran Kumar has a good rapport with the people and strong support as well. He also served as an MLA for a single term. JD(S) candidate Suresh Babu represented the constituency twice, initiated a lot of works, and fought for many irrigation projects in his tenure, but couldn’t succeed in implementing them.”
Chandraiah also said: “All the three nominees of major political parties have prior experience. Madhuswamy has delivered on the promises that he made in the previous polls. The wave is in favour of the sitting MLA. However, this poll will witness a nail-biting fight between three major political parties,” said Chandraiah.
He also said that while voting, the people would consider the candidates’ performance, caste, and party.
When it comes to caste equations, Kuruba Lingayats, Lingayats, Vokkaligas, SCs, and STs are the dominant communities in the Chikkanayakanahalli Assembly seat.
The BJP’s Madhuswamy and the Congress’ Kiran Kumar belong to the Lingayat community, while Suresh Babu is from the Kuruba Lingayat community.
There are around 2.20 lakh electors in the Chikkanayakanahalli Assembly seat. Among them, over 1.11 lakh are men and 1.09 lakh are women. In the 2018 Assembly polls, the voter turnout stood at 85.14 percent.
The voters claimed that none of the mutts, irrespective of the communities they belong to, would influence electors in the segment during polls.