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 — and those that don’t — as people make up their minds on who they will elect in the upcoming Assembly elections.
Digging up freshly asphalted roads is not unknown anywhere in India. The road inside the BDA Apartments at Valagerahalli off Mysore Road was no exception.
Over the past several months, the newly laid road was dug up for laying underground drainage pipes, much to the chagrin of the residents. Adding to their woes was the snail’s pace at which the work was being done.
The residents complained to the local BJP MLA and Minister of Cooperation ST Somashekar. He took up the matter and expedited the work.
“He not only instructed the engineers and the workers to expedite the work but also promised the residents that after the road works, CCTV cameras would be installed around the apartment blocks,” Chaitanya, a resident, told South First.
Somashekar’s intervention was not with sights set on the upcoming Assembly polls though his constituency, Yeshwanthpura, northwest of Bengaluru, is a key segment. This is one of the reasons that voters in the constituency do not think of him shifting parties to be a big concern.
ST Somashekhar was among the 17 MLAs who quit the JDS-Congress coalition government in 2019. He later joined the BJP and won the bypoll from Yeshwanthpura becoming a minister in the BJP government.
The constituency has nearly five lakh voters, up from the 4.5 lakh registered in 2018.
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Somashekar, the popular MLA
South First visited the constituency to gauge the mood of the voters. A good number of those we spoke to backed Somashekar who, over the years, has built himself a reputation for responding quickly to people’s concerns and monitoring the development work in the area.
The Yeshwanthpura constituency comprises eight wards, up from the five it had in 2018.
Dodda Bidarakallu, Herohalli, Ullal, Kengeri, and Hemmigepura were the earlier five wards, and Vidyamanyanagar, Bandemutt, and Doddagollarahatti were added after the delimitation exercise carried out by the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP).
The civic body, which earlier had 198 wards, now has 243 wards under it after it fixed the boundaries of Assembly constituencies in the expanding outer areas of Bengaluru.
Yeshwanthpura itself is an example of the expanding metro. Its character is a mix of the urban and the rural.
A vast area in the constituency is being developed as residential pockets to help accommodate the city bursting at its seams. Business establishments are also mushrooming along recently developed roads from Kengeri to Bandemutt and further toward Kommaghatta.
Huge high-rise residential complexes are being constructed adjacent to the BBMP grounds where Prime Minister Narendra twice landed in choppers to address mega rallies.
Acquisition of land for development activities, however, has been a contentious issue here. Landowners alleged that the Karnataka Industrial Areas Development Board (KIADB), which was tasked with acquiring land for the NICE Road — Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprises Road — took over more land than that was required.
Several cases against KIADB and NICE are in the courts. Three helipads have been built on the land acquired. Real estate has become a booming business and farmers in the constituency, too, are eyeing a share of the realty pie.
Still, the common feeling among voters — cutting across political lines — is in favour of Somashekar. He has been holding this seat for a decade, earlier as a Congress candidate in 2013 and 2018, before switching over to the BJP recently.
R Krishnappa, a resident of Kengeri Satellite Town, felt that Somashekar would win again. “He is not only an excellent candidate but this time, he is associated with the BJP, which would help him win,” he told South First.
Another senior citizen, Gopalakrishna MK, echoed a similar view.
“We need to be careful whenever we choose a candidate,” he told South First. “We should not choose someone, who after winning the election forgets the constituency, forcing us to chase him for five years begging to do things for us,” he said.
We should identify those candidates who work only for money and keep them at a distance. I feel the BJP will win this constituency and Somashekhar will be the candidate,” Gopalakrishna added.
The going was not easy for Somashekar. The BBMP established Bengaluru’s 12 garbage disposal units in the constituency over the past decade. His former rival and now party colleague, actor Jaggesh, ridiculed him for transforming a “beautiful” Yeshwantpura into a “Kasa-vantpura,” the Kannada word for garbage.
Still, Somashekar’s popularity remained intact. He defeated Jaggesh by a margin of 1.15 lakh votes in the previous election.
A call for change
Some voters, for instance, Basavaraju, want a change.
“I would like a fresh candidate — not necessarily from the mainstream political parties, but one who can come up with new manifestos and promise the voters that he is going to do some major changes in this constituency,” Basavaraju, who serves as the treasurer of the Elderly Citizens Forum in Kengeri Satellite Town, said.
At Yeshwanthpur’s RMC Yard market — a designated Agricultural Produce Market Committee, or APMC, a trader cited issues with the current dispensation.
“Despite the Centre repealing the anti-farmer farm laws, the state BJP government has not yet repealed it yet,” Ramesh Chandra Lahoti, who had earlier served as president of the APMC Market Association, said.
“We have a few seats in mind where we will negotiate with parties on whom to support,” he added.
Visits to other wards in the Yeshwanthpura constituency revealed other issues: Cauvery water supply to residential areas, and issues related to underground sewage and drainage systems.
Speaking to South First, Valagerahalli-resident Nagaveni expressed hope that the political parties would field strong candidates, who would work for the development of the constituency and the upliftment of the people.
Modi mania among first time voters
A first-time voter, Darshan, pledged his support for the BJP. “I am satisfied with the BJP’s work for Karnataka and my first vote will be for the party as Modiji is our leader,” the student said.
Sharanappa, another resident of Valegarahalli, wanted the BJP to retain power for a different reason: He is a Lingayat.
“I don’t care who the candidate is, but I know that if he is from the BJP he will do work,” he said.
Another resident, Chaitanya, lauded the work of Somashekar and said that the voters would want the BJP to win if the party nominates him as the candidate.
But voters in the Yeshwanthpura’s slums held a different view. A majority of voters residents in the Beedi Workers’ Colony at Bandemutt and the Ullal Upanagar slums said they would support the Congress. Most voters in the colonies are from a minority community.
Abu of Beedi Workers’ Colony said most residents would prefer the Congress regardless of the candidate.
“Our cluster leader would explain to us about the candidate we are supposed to vote for and the reasons why we should vote for him,” he told South First.
A domestic help worker, Lakshmi, from the Ullal Upanagar slum, said she would vote for the JD(S) as her family is a long-time supporter of the party. JDS is looking to field Javarayi Gowda as its candidate.