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.
The sky was partially overcast over the Basaveshwara Devalaya at Basavana Bagewadi in Karnataka’s Bijapur district on Saturday, 6 May, evening.
The grand thorana gallu — or stone arch — welcomes the faithful to the east-facing 11th-century temple, which has Nandi, the mount of Lord Shiva, more prominent than his master and lord.
The cool interiors of the temple have a soothing calmness, giving no hint of the scorching sun, predicted to beat down on Basavana Bagewadi at 44 degrees Celsius by mid-May.
The temple stands as testimony to the prosperity the region enjoyed under the Chalukyas. Basavana Bagewadi is largely forgotten though it is the birthplace of Basavanna, the 12th-century philosopher, poet, and Lingayat social reformer.
The grandeur and past prosperity remain etched in sandstone, and the vachanas of Basavanna wait to be read on the walls of the Basava Smaraka.
Some 20 km away from the places of historic importance, a mother of two was grappling with present-day realities.
Crying over onions
Basheera Ismail Bijapur squatted by the road along with a few other women and children segregating onions.
She had her head covered with a dupatta — or head scarf — to escape the sun. She knew the work she has been doing would not fetch her a decent reward.
The mother of two was seething when South First approached her. “The life of farmers has become hell in recent years,” she said.
“We are not getting a justifiable price for any crop that we grow. We cannot continue farming by incurring losses for the third consecutive year. I am planning to quit farming next year,” she said.
She grows onions, pigeon peas, and sorghum on 1.5 acres. This year, she shelled out around ₹40,000 to grow onions.
“I am selling onions at a loss of ₹25,000 this season. The price of onion has crashed over the past two months. We are barely getting ₹300 to ₹500 per sack, while it was ₹1,200 to ₹1,500 six months ago,” Basheera’s eyes welled up.
“The production cost has surged rapidly. The government is continuously failing to ensure a decent price for the product,” she lamented.
Basheera is against the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Yojana which provides her ₹10,000 every year. “We don’t want a single penny from the government. But it has to ensure a proper price for our produce,” she said.
The woman wants the government’s help to tide over the financial crisis and lead a stress-free life.
The farm labourers working with Basheera also blamed the government for the price crash.
It is not only Basheera whose eyes welled up without chopping or dicing onions. The case is the same with other farmers in Basavana Bagewadi, one of the top onion-producing regions in Karnataka.
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Basavana Bagewadi in a nutshell
One of the largest hydropower projects in Karnataka, it irrigates 30 percent of the region besides providing drinking water.
The town has a predominantly agrarian economy, with agriculture being the primary source of income for the local population.
In recent years, there has been a concerted effort to develop the town’s infrastructure to support its growing population and economy.
The segment also has the super thermal power station of the National Thermal Power Corporation at Kudgi. It has boosted the local economy in and around the area.
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Unemployment, lack of education and health infrastructure, and farm issues are the major problems dogging Basavana Bagewadi.
Despite the Krishna river, which is the third-longest river in India, flowing through the region, over 70 percent of farmlands in Basavana Bagewadi depend on rain and groundwater.
“The lack of political will is one of the main reasons that over half of the agricultural land has remained under-irrigated,” farmer Mahadevappa Manuguli told South First.
“We have the Almatti Dam in our taluka but only those farmlands near the river are irrigated,” he added.
Manuguli further stated that the political parties have repeatedly promised to implement the Upper Krishna Project. “But they forget the promise once the elections are over,” he fumed.
The town’s healthcare facilities have significantly improved. The government has established a primary healthcare center in the town, which provides basic healthcare services.
For advanced treatment, people dependent on Bagalkot, Vijayapura, Miraj, or Solapur as the taluka doesn’t have a super-specialty hospital.
Basavana Bagewadi has several primary and secondary schools, as well as a college. However, it lacks institutions offering professional courses. The students are dependent on Bagalkot and Vijayapura for higher education.
The Basavana Bagewadi Assembly constituency is witnessing a triangular fight with the Congress, BJP, and JD(S) trying hard to gain an upper hand.
In the past three Assembly elections, the Congress won twice — in 2013 and 2018 — and the BJP won once in 2008. The JD(S) did not win despite throwing a stiff challenge.
Sitting MLA Shivananda Patil is contesting again as the Congress candidate while the BJP has fielded former minister SK Bellubi. He had contested on a JD(S) ticket in Vijayapura in 2018 and lost his deposit.
Somanagouda B Patil Managuli aka Appugouda Patil is the JD(S) candidate. He was hoping to contest on a BJP ticket but returned to the JD(S) after the saffron party ignored him.
In 2018, Shivananda Patil defeated Somanagouda by 3,186 votes.
“Basavana Bagewadi will witness a fierce triangular fight. The Congress and JD(S) candidates belong to the Lingayat Panchamasali, which is the dominant community in the segment. The BJP candidate is from Lingayat Ganiga, another influential community,” political commentator Gundappa Muttaladinni told South First.
“In the last election, Shivananda Patil won by a thin margin. He has done development works across the segment but a major drawback is that he banks heavily on his party workers (or followers) instead of people,” Muttaladinni said. “This has angered a section of the voters.”
“The JD(S) candidate Somanagouda Patil lost three consecutive elections. There is sympathy for him in the segment. BJP’s Bellubbi will also pose a tough challenge and he had worked for the segment when he was the MLA in 2008. He also has the support of AHINDA,” Muttaladinni said.
AHINDA is the the Kannada acronym for minorities, backward classes and Dalits, and this group is usually considered the vote bank of the Congress.
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Banjaras back Congress
The Scheduled Caste (SC) Banjara community here has decided to support the Congress in the May 10 Assembly polls. They are upset with the BJP over internal reservations.
“The BJP is claiming that it has delivered justice to Banjaras and other SC communities by increasing reservation percent from 3 to 4.5 percent. In reality, the quota has been reduced to Banjaras and we oppose the internal reservation,” Gangaram Lamani, a businessman, told South First.
“We have decided to support the Congress. We are not supporting the JD(S) as it won’t come to power independently,” he added. The Banjaras have around 15,000 votes in Basavana Bagewadi.
Lingayats, Muslims, Kurubas and SCs and STs are the dominant communities in Basavana Bagewadi.
Lingayats have around 80,000 votes, SCs, and STs have around 55,000 votes, Muslims have around 33,000 votes and Kurubas have around 22,000 votes.
“People here consider caste, development, and individual relationships while voting. Around 15 to 20 percent of people vote based on party preferences,” said Muttaladinni.
There are 2.04 lakh voters in the segment: 1.04 lakh men and 1 lakh women.