Political battle spanning four decades intensifies in Hassan, the home turf of former PM Deve Gowda

PTI, Apr 10, 2024, 11:49 AM IST

The four-decade-old political battle between two influential families will once again be in sharp focus in this Lok Sabha polls, with members of their third-generation fighting it out in Hassan, which once hosted the capital of Hoysala kingdom.

Known for its world-renowned Hoysala period architectural marvels and UNESCO world heritage sites like Belur, Halebedu, and also Jain sanctuary Shravanabelagola, Hassan, which lies partly in the ‘malnad’ tract and in the southern plains, gave the country its first Kannadiga Prime Minister — H D Deve Gowda.

The latest in the duel involving Deve Gowda’s and his fierce opponent former Minister late G Puttaswamy Gowda’s families, will see their grandsons battling it out in the Lok Sabha polls, in this Vokkaliga-dominated district.

Deve Gowda’s grandson, the 33-year-old Prajwal Revanna, is seeking reelection from the seat as the joint candidate of the BJP-JD(S) alliance, while Congress has named 31-year-old Shreyas M Patel, the grandson of Puttaswamy Gowda.

Puttaswamy Gowda contested against Deve Gowda of the erstwhile Janata Party for the first time in 1985, as an independent candidate, after he was denied the Congress ticket from the Holenarasipura assembly segment, but lost. However, as Congress candidate, he defeated Deve Gowda in the 1989 Assembly election and also in the 1999 Lok Sabha election from Hassan.

Puttaswamy Gowda had also faced defeat against Deve Gowda’s son and former Minister H D Revanna, a six-time MLA from Holenarasipura, in 1994 and 2004 Assembly polls. Subsequently, his daughter-in-law S G Anupama too from Congress unsuccessfully contested against Revanna in the 2008 and 2013 Assembly polls.

In fact, Shreyas Patel too had contested against Revanna in Holenarasipura in the assembly polls last year, on a Congress ticket, but lost by 3,152 votes.

Prajwal is hopeful of asserting supremacy in his grandfather’s home turf, staving off some amount of ”anti incumbency”, and riding on the Deve Gowda’s factor, JD(S)’ own strength from the support of Vokkaliga vote base, coupled with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity and BJP’s support.

Deve Gowda, the JD(S) patriarch and national president, had represented Hassan Lok Sabha seat five times. In 2019 he made way for Prajwal.

Prajwal had as the joint candidate of Congress-JD(S) alliance won the seat in 2019 Lok Sabha polls by 1,41,324 votes. He was one among the only two candidates of the then ruling alliance in Karnataka to win in the state, the other being D K Suresh of Congress from Bangalore Rural.

Interestingly, A Manju, who contested against Deve Gowda and Prajwal in 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha polls from Congress and BJP respectively, is now the JD(S) MLA from Arkalgud. Shreyas Patel, a former Hassan zilla panchayat member, who is said to have got the Congress’ ticket based on his performance in Assembly polls, hopes for the momentum to continue in his favour, along with the state government’s guarantee schemes that his party is banking on. Patel, also a Vokkaliga, is determined to snatch the seat from Prajwal, and repeat his grandfather Puttaswamy Gowda’s emphatic victory over Deve Gowda in the 1999 Lok Sabha polls. The 90-year-old Deve Gowda has been campaigning for Prajwal, but this election is going to be tough for him, a party insider said, noting that there is palpable anti-incumbency against him; also his alleged failure in taking along local party workers and leaders, coupled with antagonisation of local BJP leaders ”may prove costly for him”.

However, stating that it will be an advantage for Prajwal because of the BJP-JD(S) alliance, as the saffron party’s vote is expected to shift in his favour, a BJP functionary said for this to happen there should be diligent partnership between workers of the two parties on the ground.

Pointing out that for several saffron party leaders and workers in the district including its state general secretary Preetham J Gowda, who have fought the JD(S) and Deve Gowda family politically here, it’s difficult to support Prajwal now, a BJP leader said, adding, ”they have shown reluctance in campaigning for Prajwal, despite attempts by leadership of both alliance partners to convince them…but, they may relent and show up under pressure in the future.” In an effort to placate the BJP and RSS support base in the district, Prajwal has even apologised for his earlier remarks against the RSS. Expressing confidence about his win, Prajwal said both BJP and JD(S) are working unitedly and voters of both parties too will support him as he is joint candidate of the alliance. ”They (people) want to make Modi PM once again and give more strength to Deve Gowda here,” he said.

For Shreyas, the Vokkaliga sub-caste factor may also work in his favour, as he may be able to consolidate the ‘Dasa Vokkaliga’ votes, which has a larger presence in the constituency, as he belongs to the community. The Deve Gowda family belongs to ‘Mullu Vokkaliga’ sub-caste.

With JD(S) joining hands with BJP, minority community and anti-BJP votes may consolidate in Shreyas’s favour, a Congress leader said, adding that anti-incumbency against Prajwal may also help him.

However, not everyone is happy in the Hassan Congress with Shreyas’s candidature, and if all the leaders don’t work together, the hopes of regaining the seat will remain a dream, he pointed out.

Shreyas said people of Hassan are voluntarily looking for change this time and there is a favourable atmosphere for Congress. “… Prajwal cannot win independently and is taking BJP’s support… The development he (Prajwal) claims is only in his booklet and not on the ground,” he said.

Hassan Lok Sabha constituency has eight assembly segments, with JD(S) holding four seats, while BJP and Congress two each.

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