Ground Report: It’s BJP, Munirathna’s popularity and the spirit of ‘supreme leader’ in RR Nagar

Munirathna's humanitarian work during the Covid-19 and development activities taken up make him a formidable rival for others.

ByBellie Thomas

Published Apr 14, 2023 | 12:00 PMUpdated Apr 20, 2023 | 3:29 PM

Karnataka assembly election 2023 RR Nagar

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.

The Field Marshal Cariappa Park next to the police station at Rajarajeshwari Nagar, popularly known as RR Nagar, comes alive by 4 pm in the evening.

MLA Munirathna of Rajarajeshwari Nagar

MLA Munirathna of Rajarajeshwari Nagar

A group of senior citizens gathered at the park for their evening walk at 4.30 pm. The park is the meeting ground that allows them a break from the mundane daily grind.

With the polls to the Karnataka Assembly less than a month away, South First caught up with them for a feel of the political mood.

Narayan Singh, a retired police inspector who used to work at the Raj Bhavan, pointed to a nearby mango orchard.

“Our sitting MLA (Munirathna) was the one who constructed a meeting hall for senior citizens in this park,” he said.

“There were several others who had promised a hall during previous elections, but none kept their word except Munirathna,” Singh said.

He then opened up. “We have decided to vote for him and make him win.”

Munirathna Naidu, known by his mononym Munirathna, is a film producer-turned-politician, holding the horticulture portfolio in the outgoing Basavaraj Bommai Cabinet.

Also read: South First Karnataka poll: Who is voting for whom and why

Infra matters

Another resident Harinarayana Sampigethaya insisted that Munirathna took up several development projects during his tenure.

“Did you see the civic work on a 2-3 km stretch of the main road in front of the police station,” he asked South First.

“It is being carried out at the behest of our MLA. We all know that it is his duty and he is bound to do it. However, the work he carries out throughout the constituency is very much visible,” Sampigethaya said.

A white-topped TenderSURE road with pavements is being laid on a 2.5-km stretch of the Jawaharlal Nehru Road in Rajarajeshwari Nagar, popularly called RR Nagar.

“The drainage lines are also getting replaced by Hume (concrete tubes with reinforced bars) pipes on either side of the road,” a senior BBMP official said.

“Aesthetic lighting will also come up along this road,” he added.

The roads leading to the residential blocks adjacent to the Jawaharlal Nehru Road have been freshly asphalted. The smell of bitumen still hangs thick in the air.

“During Covid lockdown, he (Munirathna) ensured that every household, especially poor families, got ample ration kits so that they do not go hungry,” a garment factory worker said.

“If we don’t vote for such a person, then God wouldn’t be happy with us,” she added.

Also read: South First Karnataka poll: Change of government on the anvil

Munirathna vs BJP?

Not all, especially BJP workers, are impressed with Munirathna, a relatively recent entrant to the party. A few residents swore that BJP cadres carried out large-scale civic works in the constituency. The credit does not belong to Munirathna alone, they told South First.

A former Mahila Morcha president of the BJP in Rajarajeshwari Nagar claimed that she and her team were instrumental in upgrading the slums in the segment. She requested anonymity.

Besides focusing on the main commercial hubs along with middle-and upper-middle-class residential pockets the BJP workers also took up road works and streetlight works at the slums at Bangarappa Nagar in Javarandoddi, Halagevaderahalli, and the Muthuraya Nagar colony.

“The BJP Morcha workers were instrumental in getting Hakku Patra (title deeds) for us and even got the properties registered in our names,” a slum-dweller told South First.

Until 2008, around five layouts in Rajarajeshwari Nagar were deprived of Cauvery water. The borewell water they then used left white patches on bathroom walls and floors.

Layouts such as Muneshwara Nagar, Pushpagiri Nagar, D’Souza Nagar, Pramod Layout, Reddy Layout, and Gurudatta Layout had no Cauvery water supply earlier.

The low-lying Pushpagiri Nagar used to get inundated during rains. The area now has rajakaluves — large stormwater drains controlling the floods.

Ignored earlier, layouts such as Kerepalya and Krishnappa got new roads and streetlights. These were all carried out by BJP Morcha workers and not Munirathna alone, the former BJP Morcha president said.

The BJP seems to have won hearts in Rajarajeshwari Nagar. “Right from the installation of Reverse Osmosis (RO) plants at various locations providing water for ₹5 per can to carrying out road-laying and drainage works, they were all done either by the BJP or Munirathna,” D Krishnaiah Urs, a resident, said.

Also read: Chikkanayakanahalli dithers: Close race between Congress, BJP, JD(S)

One for the ‘supreme leader’

Another resident Madhav Rao is not bothered about the candidates but has made up his mind on whom to support.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (Wikimedia Commons)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (Wikimedia Commons)

“It is their (the elected representative’s) duty to work for the people. I will vote for anyone from the BJP to strengthen Modi who has proved himself to be the supreme leader of the nation,” he said.

“His legacy should continue as we have all been kept in the dark over the past 70 years,” Rao added.

Manjunath K, another resident of Pragathi Park, also echoed Rao’s words

“Most people now look at the central government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. So the choice is the candidate from the BJP, irrespective of whether he is efficient. Munirathna is efficient and is from the BJP,” he opined.

When asked about candidates from the Congress and JD(S) — two major Opposition parties —  people, in general, were reluctant to comment.

“There are a lot of Vokkaliga votes here who would prefer Munirathna to others. The JD(S) has not even announced a candidate here. Hope HD Kumaraswamy has forgotten it,” Keshav Krishna Bhat, another resident, chuckled.

Also read: Chikkaballapur is all praise for K Sudhakar, not so much for BJP

Setback for the ‘DK Brothers’

The Rajarajeshwari Nagar Vidhan Sabha-154 in the Bengaluru Rural Lok Sabha constituency comprises nine wards: Rajarajeshwari Nagar, Jnana Bharathi, Laggere, Kottegepalya, HMT, Lakshmi Devi Nagara, Jalahalli, JP Park, and Yeshwanthpura.

According to the 2011 census, the total population was 4,57,935 which would have crossed five lakh at present.

As per the 2019 electoral roll, there were over 4.5 lakh voters and 381 polling stations in the constituency. The voter turnout was 53.65 percent in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, whereas it was 54.38 percent in the 2018 Assembly election.

Munirathna was among the 17 Congress and JD(S) MLAs who helped the BJP to assume power in 2018. After defeating the BJP’s PM Muniraju Gowda by a margin of 47,704 votes in 2018, he defected, necessitating a by-election in the constituency.

In the 2020 bypoll, Munirathna defeated Kusuma H, wife of the late IAS officer DK Ravi, by 57,936 votes.

The Congress’s defeat was a slap in the face of the “DK Brothers” — the other two being Suresh and KPCC president Shivakumar — who had helped Munirathna in 2013 and 2018.

The Congress has fielded Kusuma to recapture the constituency. Kusuma is the wife of late IAS officer DK Ravi whose suicide had hit national headlines.

Also read: Quota ‘gimmick’ and Parameshwara popularity in Koratagere

Controversies no bar

Controversies are not new to Munirathna. In May 2018, the Jalahalli Police registered an FIR against 14 people, including Munirathna, in connection with the seizure of 9,896 voter ID cards from an apartment.

The MLA was booked under the Representation of People Act, 1951 and 1988, and under IPC sections for bribery, undue influence, criminal conspiracy, and disobedience to order duly promulgated by a public servant.

Recently, Munirathna was booked for distributing sarees to voters, allegedly in violation of the code of conduct. This is the second FIR during after the model code of conduct came into force in the state.

In the first case, the MLA was booked for an alleged hate speech against Christians in March.

Munirathna’s opponent Kusuma, too, complained to the city police about Munirathna’s hate speech.

However, the controversies are not likely to affect Munirathna. Though there are FIRs registered against the MLA, he has not been arrested, alleged the members of the State Contractors’ Association.

The Karnataka State Contractors’ Association members headed by its president D Kempanna are contemplating moving the court, seeking Munirathna’s arrest.

Also read: Party no bar, ST Somashekar is all the buzz in Yeshwanthpura 

Rising popularity

According to voters, Kusuma is no match for a popular Munirathna.

The JD(S), which secured 60,000 votes in 2018, could get only around 10,000 votes in the bypoll.

Munirathna had then vowed that he would do justice to the constituency and work towards its development. The voters opined that he kept his promise.

The minister’s work during the Covid-19 lockdown was a hit in the constituency, adding to his popularity.

Where a story was killed

A “story” was killed at Rajarajeshwari Nagar on a September night in 2017.

The 5 September, 2017, murder of Gauri Lankesh grabbed global attention, with the BBC terming it the most high-profile murder of a journalist in recent times.

The New York Times published multiple articles — even in 2019 — on “hateful” tweets against her from right-wing social media handles.

Forbidden News remembered Lankesh in its Pursuit of an Unfinished Investigation in India, as part of the series, Story Killers, on 14 February this year.

On Wednesday, 12 April, Lankesh, or her anti-right wing political stand was not a talking point in Rajarajeshwari Nagar, where she had lived and died.