When the Congress candidate, BP Manje Gowda, tried to campaign in the village of Paduvalahippe four days ago, he found the road leading up to it had been blocked with mud. The residents had purposely blocked it to prevent Gowda from entering the village. They did not relent even when Gowda said he has the right to garner support. Eventually, the police officers had to arrive at the spot to diffuse the situation.
About 30 kilometres from the city of Hassan in the state of Karnataka, a beautiful concrete road with palm trees on either side leads to Paduvalahippe in the Holenarsipur Assembly constituency. It has a pre-university college, a degree college with five post-graduation courses and five graduation courses, a high school, an industrial training institute and a horticulture centre. It even had a law college that shut down due to lack of students. All in a village comprising 1,200 people.
Upon entering the village, we bump into a coconut farmer walking back towards his home with two freshly harvested coconuts. "How is the campaign going?" We ask him. "What campaign?" he asks. "Nobody comes to seek our votes. It is futile."
While Janata Dal (S) may be fighting for relevance in the upcoming Assembly Elections, the one place where it will never be out of favour is Paduvalahippe. It is the village where the former prime minister and JD (S) patriarch HD Deve Gowda casts his vote. He visits the village temple first and then proceeds to the polling booth.
The village is densely populated by Vokkaligas, the dominant peasant caste of old Mysore. The MLA from Holenarsipur is Deve Gowda's elder son Revanna, who, villagers say, hardly campaigns there.
Krishnamurthy, a librarian in the village, says every home has electricity, education, healthcare facilities and adequate drainage facility. "Even a dairy is coming up now," he says. "We have a primary health care centre, veterinary clinic. His work speaks for itself. He does not have to ask for our votes."
Almost all the residents here are farmers. Kumar, who has a banana orchard, says the irrigation water has been made available through a channel from Hemavati river. "Our lands hardly run dry," he says.
A stroll through the village divulges that every house is neatly built, and is connected with concrete roads. Sushila, quietly painting the exteriors of her home, says Deve Gowda and his family are a pride of the village. "Even though he now lives in Bengaluru, he has a house here," she says, pointing in its direction. "He visits often and has a personal rapport with every voter. He makes sure he is present at festivals. He and his family have made our lives prosperous. We do not need anything else."
The domestic water supply, too, is more than adequate, Sushila says, pointing towards a drum filled with water outside her home. Never mind if it had been given for organic farming. But Sushila has a conflict going on at her home. Her daughter Jyoti just finished her BCom degree.
"I want to do MCom now," she complains, with a wry smile. "But my parents want me to get married. I may be able to convince them to hold off because the college is right in the village. I do not have to go far, they don't have to worry about my safety. If we did not have a degree college here, I would have been married by now."
Criticism of Deve Gowda or his family is sacrilege here. When I try to point out the exclusivity of the facilities Paduvalahippe has received, residents vigorously contradict me. Basavaraj, 54, says even though colleges and schools are set up here, it does not only benefit the pupils of Paduvalahippe.
"Students from villages around the constituency come and study here," he says. "They all benefit. By setting up educational institutes here, our leaders have ensured our kids stay with us."
The only gripe of the villagers here is the lack of employment opportunities, says Sachin, who is in his final year of BA. "But what can Kumaraswamy or Deve Gowda do," he quickly says. "Creating jobs is Narendra Modi's responsibility. He has not done anything in the past four years, what will he do in one? He did not bring back black money either. And less said the better about Siddaramaiah. He is only favouring his Kuruba community."
However, Sachin looks at the bright side. "I would have had to go to Mysuru if not for the facilities here," he says. "That would have meant hostel fees, extra expenses. Now, students from Mysuru come here to study. We feel proud of it."
GD Narayanan, principal of the degree college – named after Deve Gowda – says there are 763 students from the 80-kilometre radius. "There is a residential hostel as well," he says, closing his laptop with a tag "RUSA Funded" on it. "We recently got Rs two crore grant under the Rashtriya Uchatar Shiksha Abhiyan. If you visit the village after vacations, it would be buzzing with students. This village has been a model for raising awareness of education among the constituency."
Deve Gowda and Revanna have indeed developed it like a model village for the others to follow. However, the part where the model is replicated elsewhere in the constituency awaits realisation. While driving out of the village, a sudden patch of tar road appears between the efficiently constructed concrete motorway. I ask about it to the local journalist travelling with me. "This patch does not come under Revanna's constituency," he says.
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Updated Date: May 09, 2018 15:08 PM