Ground Report: Will guarantees pacify anger over Cauvery is the question in Mandya Lok Sabha seat

In the last 17 Lok Sabha elections, Congress has dominated in Mandya, winning 12 times. This was followed by JD(S) with four victories.

ByMahesh M Goudar

Published Apr 16, 2024 | 10:00 AMUpdatedApr 16, 2024 | 10:13 AM

Karnataka Mandya 2024 Lok Sabha elections

In the tranquil countryside of Mandya, where the rhythm of life resonates with the land, Rajesh YB embodies the timeless wisdom of Canadian poet and journalist Brian Brett: “Farming is a profession of hope.”

In Mandya Lok Sabha constituency, with each sunrise, Rajesh tends to his beloved tomato fields, his dreams intertwined with the promise of timely water from the Krishna Raja Sagara (KRS) water reservoir and the blessing of pre-monsoon rains.

Yet, as the harsh grip of drought tightens, Rajesh’s hopes are beginning to fade like the distant echo of a passing storm.

Despite his tireless efforts, the once-thriving fields now lay barren, a stark reminder of nature’s unpredictable ways.

But amidst the severe drought, Rajesh’s spirit remains unbroken, a testament to the enduring resilience of those who till the earth.

Karnataka Ground Report Mandya 2024 Lok Sabha Polls farmer Cauvery KRS dam

Farmer Rajesh YB has incurred a loss around Rs 1.5 lakh due to drought. (South First)

Farmer Rajesh from Mandya’s Yelechakanahalli, who is a beneficiary of the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Saman Nidhi (PMKSN), told South First: “I have cultivated tomatoes over 1.5 acres of land. The lack of water has led to a great loss of crop, which compelled me to discard 50 percent of the fruit.”

He added: “I am being compelled to throw out these fruits as they lack quality because of the less water supply and availability. Even the borewell has almost dried up as there is no rain. I invested ₹1.75 lakh to cultivate tomatoes.”

He continued: “Whenever we harvest, I have to discard 40-50 crates of tomatoes as the fruits have become softer due to lack of water supply. There is no rain and water in the borewell. I am incurring losses this season.”

The heart-wrenching story is emblematic of the challenges faced by thousands of farmers in Mandya striving to safeguard their crops, provide water for their cattle, and manage daily tasks amidst a severe drought despite the presence of the Krishna Raja Sagara (KRS) reservoir.

Related: Battle in Mandya as HDK fights all important contest for JD(S)

Mandya — the Sugar City

Mandya, renowned for being the “Sugar City”, is nestled in a picturesque part of Karnataka. It stands as a testament to the confluence of history, agriculture, and modernity. Mandya owes much of its economic prowess to its flourishing sugar industry, with sugar factories dotting its landscape and sugarcane fields spread across the countryside.

With more than half of its total land area dedicated to agriculture, Mandya sustains a population of 19.25 lakh, with around 5 lakh individuals finding employment in the agricultural sector alone.

At the heart of Mandya’s prosperity lies the majestic KRS dam, a marvel of engineering crafted by the visionaries Krishna Raja Wadiyar IV and Sir M Visvesvaraya.

Since its inauguration in 1932, the dam has stood as a lifeline for the region, harnessing the waters of the Cauvery river to irrigate vast swathes of agricultural land, fueling the agricultural economy of Mandya.

This reservoir not only provides vital irrigation but also serves as a picturesque tourist attraction, drawing visitors to its serene waters and lush surroundings.

Also Read: Kumaraswamy seeks Sumalatha’s support in Mandya

Cauvery tops list of issues

Though political parties across the nation are fighting the upcoming Lok Sabha elections on several issues, the one that matters the most for farmers and the general populace is the Cauvery water-sharing dispute between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

The century-old dispute came to the fore this election cycle because Karnataka is reeling under a severe drought.

Karnataka Mandya 2024 Lok Sabha Polls

Kannada Sene Mandya district president Manjunath criticised the previous parliamentarians. (South First)

Many are unhappy with the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government in the state for reportedly releasing Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu instead of supplying it to farmers to save their crops and cattle.

Kannada Sene’s Mandya president Manjunath noted: “Several prominent leaders such as KV Shankaragoweda, G Made Gowda, SM Krishna, late actor Ambareesh, and his Sumalatha Ambareesh have represented the Mandya seat.”

He told South First: “These leaders highlighted the Cauvery and other burning issues of Mandya in Parliament, but failed to get them resolved.”

He continued: “Even the water that we store at KRS has remained in dispute. It is irrespective of the parties at the helm, but we have keenly observed that everyone has meted out stepmotherly treatment when it comes to the Cauvery row.”

Manjunath also said they protested for over 51 days for the release of water to the neighbouring state.

“We provide drinking water to Bengaluru City, but residents of the state capital remained tight-lipped during the Cauvery protest. In this burning summer, the district is facing a water crisis. All three political parties are busy with poll campaigning. Who is going to listen to the qualms of farmers?” he asked.

He also lashed out at incumbent MP Sumalatha Ambareesh for not taking part in the Cauvery protest.

Karnataka Farmer Mandya Sugarcane 2024 Lok Sabha polls Cauvery

Farmer Ramachandra criticised the Siddaramaiah government over reportedly releasing Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu. (South First)

Farmer Ramachandra told South First: “Water is the biggest issue in Mandya. We had sufficient water, but the government released it to Tamil Nadu, sidelining our demands.”

He added: “If the government had supplied water to farmers while releasing it to the neighbouring state, we would have been able to save our crops.”

He also said: “The KRS dam is ours. It is we who have built canals, reservoirs and other infrastructure for Cauvery but the Supreme Court ordered to release water to Tamil Nadu. The parliamentarians are experts in balancing, they are neither concerned about farmers nor their issues.”

Also Read: Mandya farmers to file counter-plea Cauvery water release order

Other issues

Apart from the water issues, the people also point out unemployment and the negligence of the Mysugar factory and the agriculture sector in Mandya.

Activist Sunanda Jayaram told South First: “Mandya has a rich history. It is only the Wadiyar dynasty that has contributed to the overall development of Mandya. The contribution from the politicians, especially parliamentarians is nil to this constituency.”

He added: “Despite having Bengaluru and Mysuru nearby, the unemployment is severe in Mandya. The successive state governments and parliamentarians have failed to bring industries to the district in spite of having enough resources.”

He noted: “Every party promises to revive the decades-old Mysugar factory, but no concrete development has been witnessed.”

He also pointed out: “We appreciate the building of the Bengaluru-Mysuru expressway, but it has snatched the livelihood of thousands of people and hampered the development of Mandya.”

The activist added: “Efforts also need to be made to revive and protect the 92-year-old KRS reservoir.”

Meanwhile, the district has good education and health infrastructure, housing a medical college, engineering colleges, and other professional institutions.

Women voters weigh in

Mandya’s women voters have been dismayed over the price rise of essential commodities in recent years, but gave a high-five for Congress’ guarantees ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

As promised, Congress’ Karnataka unit has implemented all five pre-poll guarantees — including Gruha Lakshmi and Gruha Jyothi.

They came within seven months of the party coming to power in the state, and over 1.5 crore people are said to be benefiting from these schemes.

On the other hand, the women are unhappy over the price rise and the imposition of GST on essential commodities like cooking oil and gas cylinders.

Karnataka Mandya 2024 Lok Sabha polls Congress guarantees

Housewife Radhamani applauded Congress’ guarantees. (South First)

Housewife Radhamani S told South First: “The price of all the essential commodities is rising and the Centre is imposing GST on all goods. Life has become so difficult that the families are grappling to get one proper meal in a day.”

She added: “I have a good opinion about guarantees. They are helping people in a greater way. For example: A PUC student came out with flying colours because of the financial assistance his mother received via Gruha Lakshmi.”

She continued: “A woman can meet her household and personal needs through these schemes. Similarly, the guarantees are helping the needy in difficult times.”

Housewife Lingarajamma Holalu told South First: “Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has stood by his words and implemented the five guarantees. Every family is getting benefits up to ₹5,000 per month since the launch of guarantees.”

She added: “In Modi’s regime, they have imposed GST on gold and essential commodities. It has become tough for women to even purchase jewellery. We are unhappy to a certain extent with Modi. Siddaramaiah is working for the welfare of the poor.”

Karnataka Mandya 2024 Lok Sabha polls Congress guarantees BJP-JD(S) NDA alliance

Housewife Jayamma is one of the beneficiaries of Congress’ guarantees. (South First)

Another housewife, Jayamma, told South First: “I am getting ₹2,000 every month under Gruha Lakshmi and also an old age pension. We are also getting free electricity and bus service.”

She, however, added: “It has become very difficult to run an easy life. In the hopes of getting benefits under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, we went twice to the concerned office but did not get anything.”

She claimed: “Despite being given all the documents pertaining to my husband and me, they did not provide me any benefits.”

Also Read: Guarantees ending poverty of 1.2 cr families, says Karnataka Governor

The Congress-NDA face-off

The Mandya Lok Sabha segment is gearing up to witness yet another fierce Lok Sabha poll battle between Congress and the BJP-JD(S) alliance on 26 April. That’s when Mandya will be going for polling in the first phase, along with 14 other constituencies in Karnataka.

A total of eight Assembly segments fall under the Mandya Lok Sabha seat. Among the eight, six are represented by Congress, and one each by JD(S) and Sarvodaya Karnataka Paksha.

While the Congress nominee Venkataramane Gowda (popular as Star Chandru) is campaigning intensively in rural areas, NDA candidate — also JD(S) state chief and former chief minister — HD Kumaraswamy, who is yet to begin canvassing, is launching his campaigning from 16 April.

It may be noted that in the last 17 Lok Sabha elections, Congress has dominated in Mandya, winning 12 times. This was followed by JD(S) with four victories. BJP is yet to open its account in this seat.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, BJP-backed independent candidate Sumalatha Ambareesh defeated Congress-JD(S) nominee and Kumaraswamy’s son Nikhil Kumaraswamy by a margin of 1.25 lakh votes.

Also Read: CM alleges conspiracy as BJP protests over Mandya Hanuman flag row

Am aware of concerns: Star Chandru

Karnataka Mandya 2024 Lok Sabha polls Congress BJP-JD(S)

Congress nominee Venkataramane Gowda campaigning in Baby village in Mandya. (supplied)

Congress candidate Venkataramane Gowda alias Star Chandru has given assurances of addressing the concerns of farmers and youth, and working towards the overall development of the Mandya seat.

While campaigning, Star Chandru told South First: “The campaign is going well. I am aware of the issues being faced by farmers and youth of Mandya. I have a dream to develop Mandya.”

Asked about his visions for the development of Mandya, he said: “I have a dream to bring a metro and a software park, developing a ring road and addressing the concerns of farmers, including providing a fair price.”

On why people should vote for Congress over BJP-JD(S), he claimed: “I am the son of this land. I am the son of a farmer.”

He added: “I am aware of farmers’ issues. Congress has given five guarantees and implemented them within a year of coming to power. Similarly, the party has announced 25 guarantees for the Lok Sabha elections. If people elect the party, we will implement all these guarantees. It will help people.”

When South First tried to reach Kumaraswamy, he was unavailable in the constituency.

Also Read: 3 ex-CMs from NDA turn up poll heat in Karnataka

Caste equations, communal flare ups, women voters 

Vokkaligas are the dominant community in the Mandya Lok Sabha seat.

Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), Kurubas, Lingayats, Muslims, and Christians are the other dominant communities in the constituency.

According to the Mandya district administration: “There are 17,79,239 voters in the Mandya seat. Among them, 9,02,959 voters are women, 8,76,112 are men, and 168 are others.”

Several political observers in the constituency believe that JD(S) may have invited the wrath of several sections among Vokkaligas and Muslims by aligning with BJP. Voters also feel Star Chandru has been given a ticket solely on the basis of his ability to spend money.

Recent communal flare ups, a phenomenon that was non-existent in Mandya, has also left voters fuming at divisive politics in an otherwise communally harmonious seat. The guarantees are a huge hit among women who are expected to vote in favour of Congress. Men on the other hand, are expected to vote on the lines of Caste, money and commitment to party. Former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda has immense currency among voters, which the BJP is keen to cash in on.

(Edited by Arkadev Ghoshal)