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, mood of the voters, issues that matter — and those that don’t — as people make up their minds on who they will elect in the upcoming Assembly elections.
Dairy farmer Muniraju in the Chintamani Assembly constituency has a grudge against the incumbent government in Karnataka.
“During the previous government, dairy farmers like me used to get subsidies regularly,” he said while talking to South First.
Now, under the BJP government, subsidies get credited only once in a blue moon,” the 37-year-old farmer who supplies 25 to 30 litres of milk daily to the Karnataka Milk Federation (KMF), added.
In Chintamani’s agriculture- and allied activities-driven economy, irregular payments and a lack of fair prices for farm produce affect the income of the agrarian community. And that, in turn, will affect the outcome of the coming election.
What keeps Chintamani town ticking
Chintamani town in Karnataka is a bustling hub that links the commercial activities of the Chikkaballapur and Kolar districts. The town, however, lacks good roads, educational and health infrastructure, sanitation and hygiene, or even industrial infrastructure.
Despite Chintamani being close to Bengaluru, the town does not have large, medium, or small-scale industries that could employ the youth.
The students of Chintamani are dependent on Bengaluru, 77 km away, for their higher education needs. The Assembly segment does not have even a single professional college.
However, the farmers have good infrastructure to sell their produce at the local mandi (market).
Chintamani is considered the biggest market for tomatoes at the taluka level in Karnataka. Farmers in Chintamani’s rural areas are into large-scale dairying. The region is also known for sericulture and horticulture farming.
Anti-incumbency against Chintamani MLA JK Krishna Reddy
An anti-incumbency feeling against the MLA is evident in Chintamani. “The sitting Chintamani JD(S) MLA, JK Krishna Reddy, is least bothered about developing the constituency. The area is a hotspot for commercial activities,” Somashekhar, businessman, and farmer, told South First.
“We need good infrastructure such as roads, transportation, and marketing platforms, but the MLA has not carried out any work,” he added.
The upcoming Assembly election is set to be a showdown between the JD(S) and the Congress candidates in Chintamani.
People from all walks of life spoke about what Chintamani needs: Good institutions for higher education, and the setting up of large-scale industries to generate employment in the region.
Karnataka’s Chintamani has been a drought-prone area. The region does not have a single river. However, there are several lakes around the town. These natural tanks are the lifeline of this Assembly segment.
Like elsewhere in the country, farmers here, too, are largely dependent on rain for agriculture activities as most of the area is dryland. However, the region received record rains in the past three years. The copious rains have increased the groundwater levels.
Why are the farmers unhappy?
The local economy is agriculture-driven and tomatoes, mangoes, chillies, and finger millet are the major crops in this region. In parts of Chintamani in Karnataka, farmers are also into sericulture and dairy farming.
The agrarian community is unhappy with the government because no major welfare programmes have been taken up for addressing issues pertaining to Chintamani.
“We invest a lot of money to grow tomatoes and chillies, but the government doesn’t assure us a suitable price for the crops,” Venkatesh, a farmer from Kachihalli, said.
“Additionally, the government should establish cold storages and processing units to help farmers store their produce,” he told South First.
Muniraju, another farmer, told South First that the MLA [JK Krishna Reddy] should ask himself what he had done for the constituency. “It is as if he has taken Chintamani backwards by 30 years.” The anger is evident.
Chintamani in Karnataka shares its border with Anantapur district in Andhra Pradesh. People handle both Telugu and Kannada with ease.
Chintamani town was once recognised as a “green, clean, and plastic-free town” in Karnataka. It has also received many state awards. However, the situation now is bad with piled-up garbage and poor traffic management.
Grocer Chandrashekar Shettar wondered whether Chintamani has a functional municipal council. “The sitting MLA does not have a hold over the city municipality as none of the officials or workers is bothered about keeping the city clean and responding to the citizens’ grievances,” he told South First.
“The city has barely witnessed any development since 2013. We hope that this election will change the fate of the Chintamani Assembly seat,” Shettar said.
Support for former Chintamani MLA Dr MC Sudhakar
The voters are clearly unhappy with Krishna Reddy, the MLA representing Chintamani in Karnataka for the second consecutive term. The JD(S) has already announced him as its candidate in Chintamani.
The people are keen on electing former MLA Dr MC Sudhakar of the Congress.
MC Sudhakar is the grandson of Chintamani’s first MLA MC Anjaneya Reddy, and son of former Home Minister Chowda Reddy. However, the grand old party has not yet announced its official candidate.
Many people claimed that the constituency witnessed rapid development when MC Sudhakar represented it between 2004 and 2013.
“The incumbent MLA JK Krishna Reddy took Chintamani backwards in terms of development. He hardly responds to the grievances of the people,” businessman Devaraj told South First.
“Whereas Sudhakar is a visionary leader. When he was representing Chintamani, he did a lot of development work in the segment. He changed the entire infrastructure of the segment,” he added.
It may be recalled that Dr MC Sudhakar lost the previous two Assembly elections by a narrow margin. He lost by 1,696 votes and 5,673 votes in the 2013 and 2018 Assembly polls, respectively.
Meanwhile, the BJP is yet to open its account in Chintamani. The saffron party’s candidates lost their deposit in all the polls they contested in the past.
However, in the forthcoming Assembly polls, the ruling party is planning to register its maiden victory by fielding Satish Reddy, who is said to be the close relative of Health Minister Dr K Sudhakar. Devanahalli Gopi is the other aspirant from the BJP.
In the past 15 Assembly polls, the Congress has won Chintamani seven times, JD(S) twice, and Janata Dal and Janata Party once each. The segment voted in favour of independents four times.
The AHINDA factor in Chintamani, Karnataka
When it comes to caste equations, AHINDA is dominant in Chintamani, Karnataka.
AHINDA is the Kannada acronym for Alpasankhyataru (minorities), Hindulidavarau (backward classes), and Dalitaru (Dalits), a social engineering tool proposed by former Chief Minister Devaraj Urs, and honed by Congress leader Siddaramaiah.
There are around 2.12 lakh voters in Chintamani, of which 1.10 lakh are men and 1.02 lakh are women.
Vokkaliga, SC/ST, Muslims, and Reddys are the influential communities in the segment. The Vokkaliga and SC/ST community vote share accounts for over half of the total votes in the segment.
Mohammed Zubair, a resident of Chintamani, told South First: “We will elect the candidate who delivers on promises. The JD(S) MLA [JK Krishna Reddy] does not have any hold over the local administration. He has not addressed the grievances of the people.”
“MC Sudhakar, on the other hand, enjoys a good rapport with common people. We will vote for the candidate not for the party in Chintamani,” Zubair, who runs a utensils shop, added.