The December 5 bypolls are of special significance for the ruling Bharathiya Janata Party (BJP) in the state as it has for the first time won an assembly seat in the Vokkaliga -dominated Mandya district, which has always veered towards the Janata Dal (Secular) or the Congress in elections held here since independence.
The saffron party's victory in K R Pete is particularly sweet for Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa as his party had for years failed to open its account in this sugar bowl of Karnataka although he belongs to Bookanakere village in the taluk. Now that it finally has, he can at last proudly speak of winning the backing of “his people”. While there was scepticism over whether voters would again support disqualified K R Pete legislator of the Janata Dal (Secular) Narayana Gowda, who quit in July to help bring down the Kumaraswamy government a little over a year after being elected in 2018, the results have proved all the doubting Thomases wrong. Congratulations have been pouring in not just for Mr Yediyurappa for this historic party win, but also his son, B.Y. Vijayendra and Deputy Chief Minister C.N. Ashwathnarayana, who stationed themselves in the constituency to strategise the party's campaign in the weeks leading upto the bypoll. While he acknowledged that he was anxious to begin with when given the task of crafting the party's victory in K R Pete, Dr Ashwathnarayana told Deccan Chronicle that he took it as a challenge and gave equal credit to Mr Vijayendra for the Bharathiya Janata Party’s win from the constituency . Excerpts from the interview:
What was your initial reaction when you were assigned the herculean task of making sure disqualified MLA, Narayana Gowda won again from K R Pete on your party ticket ?
Initially, I was a little tense as Mandya district has been a fortress of the Janata Dal (Secular) and the Congress. But I didn't lose heart and accepted the challenge as I love challenges. I was very happy because Mr Yediyurappa had reposed such faith in me. My only strength was the good work he has done in the constituency since 2008 and it came in handy to connect with the local people. Besides, the BJP government is in power and working to their expectations.
How did people react to your party when they have been so loyal in the past to the Congress and Janata Dal (Secular)?
It took some time for me to connect with the voters since they have been voting for either the Congress or the Janata Dal (Secular) all these years. Vijayendra and I visited every booth in the constituency, requesting people to vote for the lotus symbol since they have tried the two other parties in the past. We also told them about the contributions of Mr Yediyurappa to the district since 2008 and appealed to them to give us a chance to serve them. Among all the strategies, the Bookanakere connect clicked as this village is in K R Pete. Our party candidate, Narayana Gowda, was also determind to win at any cost and this boosted our confidence too. The vilification campaign by the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular)) leaders helped our candidate expose their lack of confidence to take on him. As the days progressed, the support swelled in our favour and the rest is history.
Were you sent to the constituency because you are a Vokkaliga?
It may be one of the reasons. But we got the support of not only the majority Vokkaligas, but also the Kurubas, SCs/STs, backward classes and Lingayats. While I spent ten days in the constituency, Vijayendra worked here for 15 days before the election to do the groundwork for the party. He deserves equal accolades for working tirelessly in the constituency for almost 20 to 25 days. The party workers also visited every house and interacted with voters. The media was not confident, but we were 100 per cent sure of pulling off a dramatic win in the bypoll. Ultimately, we were successful in making the lotus bloom in the sugar bowl of Karnataka.
What’s your next plan?
Having won a seat in Mandya district, our aim is to spread out to more of its constituencies. The government now has the responsibility of fulfiling the promises made to the people of K R Pete in particular and Mandya in general.