In Karnataka’s Vokkaliga heartland, Mandya - formerly held by JD(S) - Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, on his first visit to the State in the current poll season, swung to get the votes by promising successful delivery of welfare schemes for the masses, while he hit out at the BJP accusing it to be an instrument of the wealthy, capitalist class.

As men in crumpled shirts and green shawls (commonly worn by farmers in the region) and women in colourful sarees covering their heads flocked to Mandya University grounds in scorching heat, Gandhi attempted to project himself as a representative of the neglected masses, as his party promised to heed the needs of farmers, women, youth, and labourers. 

Gandhi also emphasised that the Congress government in Karnataka has successfully implemented the five guarantees as promised. He also assured that If voted to power in the upcoming elections, as their track record suggests, the party will also ensure successful implementation of guarantees announced nationally. 

The grand old party promised to provide women ₹1 lakh per year, a year of apprenticeship with ₹8,500 per month to unemployed diploma holders and graduates along with a promise of first right over new jobs, legal MSP, loan waiver and insurance settlement for farmers, an extension of the MNREGA scheme to urban areas and a minimum wage of ₹400 for labourers per day and a doubling of salary for all female ASHA and Anganwadi workers. 

Mandya is currently at the heart of a fierce battle in the old Mysuru belt, which goes to the polls in nine days. While the BJP has arrayed a safe choice - Vokkaliga leader and JDS chief HD Kumaraswamy, the Congress has decided to go with debutant Venkataramanaih (popularly called Star Chandu), an entrepreneur from the district.  

Lashing out

Gandhi also made sure to hit out at the BJP (the saffron party has an alliance with the JDS in Karnataka), and accused the Modi government of not catering to the needs of the farmers and instead waiving off loans of around ₹16-lakh crore of about 25 industrialists. He also noted that the PM’s hands shook while trying to explain about the electoral bonds and claimed that it is the biggest scam the nation has ever seen. Even as he went on to criticise the ruling government, a section of the crowd was seen walking out. 

Congress this time fancies its chances in the region, as the locals believe that Siddaramaiah’s guarantees have been of great benefit and they require local leaders to address their problems constantly, not just Modi guarantees.

Sections of locals whom businessline spoke to also noted that Kumaraswamy did not have a strong physical presence in the region anymore, with most of his time divided between Channapatna and Bengaluru. Interestingly, some people said that had the BJP gone with sitting MP Sumalatha as their candidate, the party would have had a better chance of winning in the region. “We want a candidate who is accessible,” they said.