BENGALURU: Mahalakshmi Layout has all the troubles of the city traffic congestion, poor garbage disposal, stray dogs and more with slums and the Vrishbhavathi valley adding to the woes of the people of this assembly constituency in Northwest Bengaluru. On the other hand, some of the best educational institutions are located here and the area is well connected both by bus and the Metro Rail.
Of its seven wards, four are with the JD(S), two with the Congress and one with the BJP. Not surprisingly, the constituency elected former legislator, K. Gopalaiah, who was with the JD(S) both during the 2013 and 2018 assembly elections.
The big question though is will the people continue to support him, now that he is contesting on a BJP ticket and helped bring down the JD(S)- Congress coalition government in July. To his advantage, former MLA, Narendra
Babu, who had lost to him on a BJP ticket in 2018 and former deputy mayor, Harish, who too had lost to him on a BJP ticket in 2013, are campaigning hard for him in the constituency, where he is already a popular figure.
Challenging the former legislator is Congress candidate, M. Shivaraj, a third-time corporator from the Shankarmutt ward.
Like Mr Gopalaiah he too enjoys a huge following here, having earned the people’s support as chairman of the BBMP’s Standing Committee on Taxation and Finance and as ruling party leader in its council. While the JD(S) has fielded Girish K Nashi, a chartered accountant for the coming bypoll, the contest is clearly between the former legislator with his cult-like following in the constituency and Mr Shivaraj, who is also banking on his personal rapport with the people here to garner votes.
There is mixed response from the voters to the former JD(S) legislator’s “betrayal” of the party . While some are still with him despite his sudden shift to the BJP, others find it hard to digest.
"We respect Mr Gopalaiah. Since his tenure as MLA in 2013, the constituency has seen a lot of development. But no self-respecting person will vote for him again as he jumped ship for his own interests," said a shopkeeper in the area. Several others called Mr Gopalaiah was an opportunist, who had betrayed the Deve Gowda family and the JD(S) party, although they were responsible for his growth.
On the other hand, some didn’t care which party their favourite leader belonged to. "Mr Gopalaiah is very approachable and keenly listens to our problems and addresses them. We will vote for him no matter which party he belongs to," said Mr Rajendra, a labourer.
Interestingly, despite his desertion, many local JD(S) workers are campaigning for Mr Gopalaiah, making it even tougher for their party to take him on this bypoll.
But Mr Shivaraj is expected to give the former legislator a tough fight with top Congress leaders like Siddaramaiah, D K Shivakumar, and Priyank Kharge campaigning for him in the constituency.
Given the circumstances, many believe that Mr Nashi, a Lingayat, will only finish third in the race in the constituency with its large number of Vokkaliga voters.
‘People angry with Gopalaiah, will vote for me’
Q: What is the mood of the people in the constituency?
A: People are really angry with BJP candidate, Gopalaiah. They feel betrayed as he left the JD(S) for his selfish ends and did not give them a proper reason
for his decision. They are ready to teach him a lesson this bypoll.
Q: What plans do you have for Mahalakshmi Layout constituency?
A: My priority will be its traffic and then the many slums that dot it. We need to build houses for the urban poor and in many places, the slumdwellers have not been given their title deeds. My other focus will be developing the parks and playgrounds and creating employment. Thousands of people go to the Peenya Industrial Area for work from here and I would like to help train youth in skills that will allow them to set up their own enterprises.
Apart from these above, my special focus will be creating employment.
Thousands of people head to Peenya Industrial Area for work and under the welfare schemes, I wish to create a set up where the youths can get the needed skills and set up their own enterprise.
Q: How confident are you of winning?
A: In the past people voted blindly. But now they are wiser and take the right decisions. During the Siddaramaiah government and the Congress –JDS coalition government, the constituency received over `1,000 crore for developmental work. Also, people are aware of my contribution to improving the property tax collection and addressing various issues as ruling party leader. They will vote for me. I am very confident of winning.