In the last leg of the election campaign in Tamil Nadu, Congress leaders from Karnataka have descended on the poll-bound state seeking votes for the DMK-led alliance. The Karnataka Congress has focused on three constituencies along the Karnataka border where the DMK, Congress and the CPI-M have a good foothold.
With a large Telugu and Kannada speaking population living in the region, Karnataka Congress leaders such as Siddaramaiah, DK Shivakumar, Zameer Ahmed Khan and Ramalinga Reddy have visited the bordering areas of Bagalur, Denkanikottai, Shoolagiri and Hosur town, falling under Hosur and Thalli Veppanahalli Assembly constituencies in Krishnagiri district.
In Thalli, DMK’s ally CPI-M’s T Ramachandran is contesting against BJP’s Nagesh Kumar, a political greenhorn. In Hosur, sitting DMK MLA from Thalli, Y Prakaash, is contesting against Jyothi Reddy, wife of disqualified (after having convicted in a riots case) AIADMK’s former MLA Balakrishna Reddy. And in the neighbouring Veppanapalli constituency, DMK’s P. Murugan is pitted against AIADMK’s KP Munusamy, former Rajya Sabha MP.
Speaking to The Federal, DMK’s Murugan said the Karnataka Congress’ target group was the caste groups — Siddaramaiah for the Kurubas & Dalits, Shivakumar for Gowdas and Khan for the minorities.
Banking on the anti-incumbency factor, Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar have targeted the AIADMK-BJP alliance on unemployment, farmer issues and controversial Central government policies.
“The BJP has not been able to grow much in south India. In Karnataka they formed government through defecting MLAs and not through people’s mandate,” Siddaramaiah said while campaigning for CPI-M’s Ramachandran. Karnataka Congress chief DK Shivakumar has the Congress is determined to make MK Stalin the Chief Minister and keep the BJP out of Tamil Nadu.
All three seats are DMK-Congress’ strongholds. Hosur has elected Congress candidates in eight out of 12 Assembly elections since 1971. Only once in 1996, the AIADMK won the seat. MLA Balakrishna Reddy, who served as the chairman of Hosur Municipality, was convicted in a rioting case and remained disqualified. Following this, the DMK candidate SA Sathya won the seat in 2019.
In Thalli, Ramachandran, a two-time MLA, represented the constituency once as an Independent in 2006 and in 2011 as a CPI-M candidate. He lost to DMK’s Prakaash in the 2016 elections. With the alliance sealed between the DMK and CPI-M in this election, Ramachandran expects an easy win. In the last two elections, the combined vote share of DMK and CPI-M ranged between 70-80% in the constituency.
In Veppanapalli, the constituency formed after the delimitation in 2007, the DMK won the seat in 2011 and 2016. Sitting MLA P Murugan is seeking re-election. Murugan’s opponent Munusamy, unsuccessfully contested in the 2019 Lok Sabha election from Krishnagiri and lost to the Congress.
Similarly, in BJP, former Karnataka minister CT Ravi was made the in-charge of Tamil Nadu elections and Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrashekar as the media outreach in-charge in Kerala. Besides, the party has also sent about 30 former Bangalore city councilors to campaign in Puducherry.
Even as the Karnataka Congress is assisting DMK’s poll campaign in these constituencies, the Karnataka BJP has not committed enough resources in these areas. Education Minister Suresh Kumar was seen campaigning alone for the BJP candidate Nagesh Kumar in Thalli.
Both Congress and BJP have asked their party workers and senior leaders from Karnataka to oversee the elections. For instance, the Congress has sent former KPCC presidents G Parameshwara and Dinesh Gundu Rao to shape up the party’s campaign strategy in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.
The BJP has made former minister CT Ravi, an RSS worker, as in-charge of Tamil Nadu. Besides, Union Minister Pralhad Joshi, Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister CN Ashwathnarayana, and MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar are helping the party in mobilizing resources and managing the party affairs.
Unlike Siddaramaiah and Sivakumar and Zameer Ahmed, others from national parties have restricted their speeches to English and Hindi. Though BJP’s Ravi attempted to make a speech in Tamil, it did not work. The local association of Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar seems to be working for the DMK. Krishnagiri has six Assembly seats. The DMK-led alliance is looking for a sweep. “Karnataka Congress leaders’ presence has really helped. They spoke in Kannada and Hindi and appealed to voters of their respective caste groups in Krishnagiri. We will sweep the elections this time,” said Murugan.