With the Karnataka Assembly elections 2023 just days 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.
“Listen, O lord of the meeting rivers, things standing shall fall, but the moving ever shall stay.” A recurring theme in Basavanna’s poems is the contrast between sthavara and jangama — stationary and mobile.
On Sunday, 23 April, Karnataka and the two Telugu-speaking states celebrated the birth anniversary of Basavanna, the 12th-century philosopher, poet, administrator, and Lingayat social reformer.
Life at Kodekal in Karnataka’s Yadgir district is trying hard to keep moving. Nazira Begum is among the Shorapura taluka villagers fighting the odds to stay afloat.
Named after the savant, the Basava Sagar Reservoir on the Krishna river is barely 24 km from the village. Yet, Nazira has picked up the pots on the hot summer morning, even as the young woman’s two-year-old daughter clung to her.
Walking to a borewell on the village outskirts has become a routine for Nazira, like several other women in the neighbourhood. Last-mile drinking water connectivity would have spared them from their daily avoidable routine.
Water from the reservoir won’t flow into the village, but money does, especially ahead of each election. The village’s backwardness helps the affluent candidates to buy votes.
A parched land
Nazira was hurrying home with the baby and water when South First caught up with her.
“We have drinking water issues and don’t get piped water in our village. The entire village is dependent on either borewells or wells,” she explained her presence under the simmering sun.
Other villagers, too, raised the same complaint. But they are helpless, forcefully sidelined and made to suffer in silence.
“If we question the MLA about the lack of drinking water, we will be targeted,” Mallikarjun Patil, a farmer in Kodekal, said.
BJP’s Narasimha Nayak, frequently referred to as Rajugouda, represents Shorapur (previously Surapura) in the outgoing Karnataka Assembly.
“We don’t get drinking water in our homes. There are also a couple of Reverse Osmosis plants, but we have to pay ₹5 per pot of water,” Patil added.
The amount might seem meagre to many. But for the villagers, it adds up to a huge sum a month, which not all could afford.
Kodekal is not the only village left parched in the Shorapur Assembly constituency, reserved for candidates from Scheduled Tribes (ST). Several other villages in the segment, too, are without potable water.
The MLA and his followers claim that the situation would change soon. They said works to implement the Jal Jeevan Mission, a Union government scheme, are underway.
Once completed, every household in the entire Yadgir district would get water connections, they claimed.
Nazira, however, doesn’t have time to pause for the claims. The baby beamed over her mother’s shoulder as the woman rushed back to her daily grind.
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Shorapur: A picture in sepia
Shorapur town has a rich history that dates back to ancient days. It is the land of the much-admired and celebrated prince of the Surapura kingdom, Raja Venkatappa Nayaka.
The raja, belonging to the Valmiki community, refused to accept the suzerainty of the British East India Company and led a valiant campaign against the colonisers in 1857.
Venkatappa Nayaka eventually fell prey to treason, was captured in Hyderabad, and sentenced to life.
He preferred death at the mouth of a cannon. “I am not a coward,” he reportedly told Philip Meadows Taylor, writer, and Resident Regent.
Taylor, who was fond of Venkatappa, detailed Shorapur in his autobiography, The Story of My Life.
Shorapur is a portmanteau of two Kannada words, Shora, meaning brave, and Pura, town.
Surrounded by rocky hills in the Deccan plateau, Shorapur presents a sepia-tinted picture in summer. The wilting vegetation on the hills has taken an insipid yellowish hue.
Still, the neem, tamarind, and banyan trees dotting the slopes are holding up against the sweltering heat, like the villagers fighting the adversities life has thrown at them.
A commercial town in the Yadgir district, Shorapur’s economy is largely driven by agriculture. Farmers grow paddy, groundnut, cotton, chilli, sorghum, and other crops.
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The Kodekal village is located four kilometres northwest of Bardevanhal. Several villagers have migrated to Bengaluru, Mangaluru, Hyderabad, Pune, and Mumbai in search of employment.
Kodekal is not the only village witnessing large-scale migration, inadequate higher education and health infrastructure, and a lack of employment opportunities.
Several people holding agricultural lands, too, were among the migrants who left their roots in Shorapur villages, fragmenting their families.
“Many people having farmlands less than five acres have migrated since the whole family cannot depend only on agriculture. There are hardly any employment opportunities for the youth in the region,” farmer Bheemanagouda Nayak told South First.
Nayak felt that the constituency should have industries providing huge employment opportunities to prevent the youth from leaving.
“The sitting MLA has assured us that a sugar factory will be established to address the unemployment issue,” the farmer said, adding that it would contribute too little to address the woes.
“It won’t stop the people from migrating. We have sufficient water for about seven to eight months a year. The government has to set up industries to employ the youth, which might curb migration,” Nayak added.
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The constituency has educational facilities till the intermediate level. For higher education, the youth depend on Bengaluru, Hubballi, Raichur, and Kalaburagi.
For advanced medical care, people have to travel at least 90 km. They travel to Kalaburagi, Yadgir, and Vijayapura, and Maharashtra’s Miraj for medical treatment.
However, these exigencies do not affect MLA Rajugouda.
“He is hardly available in the segment. He will be here for a day or two a week. The rest of the days he will be in Bengaluru,” Hanumanthrayya Karadi, a farmer living in Kamatagi, told South First.
Karadi was acerbic. “He (the MLA) has hardly made any effort to address the issues such as employment and health in the segment. He makes promises but doesn’t deliver,” the farmer said.
“He claims that he has brought the Jal Jeevan Mission scheme to the town but it is a central government programme. He is fooling everyone in the segment,” Karadi did not hide his hatred towards Rajugouda.
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Fertiliser price: Up, up and away
Farming is the main occupation in the segment. Around 50 percent of the land is irrigated. However, the agrarian community expressed disappointment over the government’s failure in regulating fertiliser prices.
“The fertilser prices increased up to threefold after Covid-19. Even the government is selling fertiliser at market price,” Dinganna, a farmer in Kavadimatti told South First.
“This has placed an unbearable burden on the farmers,” he lamented that a sack of fertiliser costs more than a sack of paddy.
“We don’t get a good price for our crops. As this is the election year, the prices are good for paddy and other crops,” he pointed at the poll-specific ‘eyewash’.
“If the government doesn’t regulate the fertiliser price, it will be difficult to continue farming,” he said.
“We are already selling crops at a loss. Even labour costs have surged. I am perplexed why we elect a government,” Dinganna fumed.
The Shorapur Assembly segment is likely to witness a close fight between the BJP and Congress in the 10 May polls.
Rajugouda has represented the segment three times: Twice on BJP tickets and once as a Kannada Nadu Party (KNDP). The KNDP later merged with JD(S).
The Congress has fielded three-time MLA Raja Venkatappa Naik and JD(S) has nominated Shravanakumar Nayak. The voters claimed that the fight is between the BJP and Congress.
In the past 11 Assembly elections, the Congress dominated Shorapur, winning six times. The BJP managed to win twice. The KNDP and an independent (2013), too, won the segment once each.
In the 2018 polls, BJP’s Rajugouda defeated Congress’s Venkatappa Naik by a margin of 22,568 votes. The JD(S) trailed with just 4,796 votes.
“In the past three elections, BJP’s Rajugouda managed to gain an upper hand twice over Congress’s Venkatappa Naik. Both leaders belong to the influential Valmiki community,” political commentator Ningaraju pointed out.
“This election is likely to witness a close fight between the BJP and the Congress. The voters don’t prefer JD(S) as the regional party has continuously failed to field efficient candidates,” he said.
The Modi force
The BJP, however, is upbeat. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to the constituency has improved the prospects of the BJP. Venkatappa Naik is banking on the voters’ sympathy, claiming that this will be his last electoral battle,” Ningaraju explained the scenario.
“A section of the people is unhappy with Rajugouda and there are also complaints that he is hardly available in the constituency. The young voters support the BJP because of Modi. However, the momentum is in favour of Rajugouda in this election,” he added.
“It is a stiff competition between the BJP and Congress. After Rajugouda got elected, he addressed many issues like inadequate irrigation facilities for farming. He is also young,” Shanthgouda Gulabal of Rajankolur told South First.
“We want youngsters to represent us in the Assembly,” the 28-year-old added. “The youngsters are supporting the BJP because of the prime minister.”
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Scheduled Castes, Tribes, and Lingayats are the dominant castes in the constituency. Kurubas and Muslims, too, are a significant force.
There are over 1.25 lakh SC and ST votes with the Lingayats following with 45,000 votes. Kurubas have more than 35,000 votes and Muslims have around 25,000 votes.
“Caste, party, and development works will decide the voting pattern,” Ningaraju said, before mentioning another deciding factor.
“Money will flow even on the penultimate day of polling. It will have a huge impact on the people’s voting preferences,” he added.
The segment has 2.68 lakh voters: 1.35 lakh men and 1.33 lakh women. On 10 May, they will decide whether the segment should march forward.