Bengaluru: Chants of 'Modi, Modi' rent the air in Tumakuru as BJP president Amit Shah launched a final salvo against the not inconsiderable challenge posed by former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda, backed by the Congress but not fully backed by the Vokkaliga dominated voter base that rivals the BJP's Lingayat following.
On the last day of campaigning, BJP national president, Amit Shah held a roadshow in Tumakuru where his party has fielded G.S. Basavaraj against former PM H.D. Deve Gowda.
Ahead of the roadshow, Shah visited Siddaganga mutt, a prominent Lingayat seminary in Karnataka, and paid respects at the "Gadduge" (the final resting place) of its highly revered seer Shivakumara Swami, who passed away at the age of 111-year, in January this year.
Thousands of enthusiastic BJP workers cheered Shah chanting "Modi, Modi" as his rath , a modified campaign vehicle, traversed through the streets of Tumakuru in the around 40-minute road show.
Sources in the party said that even Prime Minister, Narendra Modi had planned to visit Tumakuru however, Mr Basavaraj had exuded confidence that he would make it without anyone's help. Therefore, the plan was changed and party national president visited Tumakuru.
Mr Basavaraj's calculation was diametrically different to that of the Congress which claimed Mr Gowda would sail through. Sources in the Tumakuru BJP claimed he built a rapport with small communities and had even built bridges with Muslims. His calculation is: Muslims would vote for him, not for Mr Modi.
However, during the road show, Mr Shah canvassed for BJP candidate G S Basavaraj on the last day of the electioneering in the constituency, which is going for polls on Thursday along with 13 other seats in the first of the two-phase elections in the state. The remaining 14 Lok Sabha seats in Karnataka will have polling on April 23. A large number of people gathered all along the route and showered flower petals on Shah as the "rath" wound its way through the near delirious crowd.
Ahead of the "rath", BJP supporters sporting saffron caps and holding cutouts, placards and party flags danced to drum beats, as slogans of 'Modi Modi' rent the air. Accompanying Shah among others were senior leader and MLA V Somanna, BJP national general secretary and Karnataka in charge P. Muralidhar Rao.
Mr Deve Gowda is the joint candidate of ruling Congress-JDS coalition in the constituency. He has chosen to contest from Tumakuru at the last minute, after vacating Hassan, his home tuft, to grandson Prajwal Revanna. Congress had ceded Tumakuru seat to JD(S) as per the seat sharing arrangement, denying ticket to sitting MP S.P. Muddahanume Gowda, causing resentment within.
The fight in Tumakuru is also seen as battle between Lingayats and Vokkaligas - the two dominant communities in Karnataka -- to which both Basavaraj and Gowda belong to respectively. Basavaraj had represented Tumakuru in Lok Sabha in the past- thrice as a Congress nominee and once from BJP. He was defeated by Congress Muddahanume gowda in 2014 polls. For Deve Gowda it is his first electoral battle from Tumakuru, which has eight assembly segments. Four of them are held by BJP, three by JD(S) and one by Congress. A total of 15 candidates are in the fray in the seat
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