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At least two dozen incidents have been reported in the past 10 days where candidates – sitting ministers and opposition candidates – were at the receiving end for failing to provide basic amenities.
“This is a new trend. Voters are doing in the open what they used to think privately or silently,” said Trilochan Sastry, founder-member of National Election Watch.
The reasons for voters’ anger are many. Labour minister Santosh Lad, who is recontesting from Kalghatagi in Dharwad district on a Congress ticket, got an earful from residents of Salinakoppa village on Wednesday night for bad roads and poor infrastructure in the region. Residents alleged that he had failed to set up a gym which he had promised in the last election, and shouted slogans against him. The minister had to make a quick exit.
In Narasimharaja constituency of Mysuru, primary education minister Tanveer Sait’s campaign came to a grinding halt when a Kannada activist, Paramesh, took him to task for failing to provide good roads in Raghavendranagar. Paramesh told the minister: “We have voted for your father and for you too. But why are the roads in the area not repaired? You don’t seem to care.” As a stumped Sait wondered what to do, his supporters pacified the activist, saying work would be done after the polls.
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Voter activism is playing out in a different way in Hubballi-Dharwad-Central where BJP leader and former CM Jagadish Shettar is contesting. A whopping 26 independents are in the fray here and a majority of them are contesting to protest against Shettar’s alleged failure to develop the constituency. “Even BJP candidates face anti-incumbency and people are using polls to express their dissent,” a local BJP leader admitted.
In Chamarajnagar district’s Hanur constituency, sitting MLA R Narendra was reportedly gheraoed by residents of Koudahalli. “Where were you in the last five years? Why have you remembered us now?” was their refrain during the campaign.
In Bidar, businessman and Congress candidate Ashok Kheny reportedly faced voters’ ire in two villages for not having turned the constituency into ‘Mini-Singapore’, a promise he had made in the last election.
“Voters are asserting their rights and expressing their disenchantment,” says political analyst Muzaffar Assadi. “There is also another interesting trend – there are more citizen groups coming out with their own manifestos and presenting it to candidates.”