Former Union minister M Veerappa Moily said on Monday caste factor will not play a role in the Vokkaliga-dominated parliamentary constituency of Chikkaballapur, from where he is seeking re-election, as it has been a Congress bastion since its formation in 1977 and lost only once.
"This constituency is a Congress bastion. We have lost only once since its formation in 1977. We had lost to R L Jalappa in 1996 Lok Sabha elections. He had fought on Janata Dal ticket, then. Hence, caste factor will not play any role here," he told PTI in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of his third round of electoral campaign in Doddaballapur city.
Chikkaballapur, nearly 60 km from the state capital Bengaluru, is dominated by Vokkaligas, with about 4 lakh votes.
The hat-trick win of a Brahmin candidate V Krishna Rao on Congress ticket between 1984 to 1991 is a good indicator that caste politics does not play a role in this Vokkaliga-dominated parliamentary constituency, Moily, aiming for a third term from the seat, said.
The BJP, however, feels a large chunk of the Vokkaliga "votebank" will shift to the party because of the disenchantment over the coalition pact between the Congress and the JD(S).
BJP's Karnataka in-charge Muralidhar Rao said a substantial number of Vokkaliga voters of JD(S) will shift to BJP in Old Mysuru region including Chikkaballapur constituency.
Moily, 79, said that this constituency is "secular" and does not tolerate communal forces.
Moreover, as a chief minister, he said he has done a lot of work which has benefited the people of the state, irrespective of their castes, which, he added, will fetch him votes.
"I have treated everybody equal. I introduced common entrance test, due to which good number of medical seats were given to people irrespective of their castes. I took water and irrigation projects in this region. All these good work which I did, I believe people remember," he said.
In the last assembly election in 2018, Congress won five and JD(S) won two seats, out of eight belonging to this parliamentary constituency, which is an advantage for his chances of winning the seat, Moily said.
"Since both JD(S) and Congress are campaigning together, he hopes transfer of JD(S) votes to the Congress... I am also expecting a lead in Yelahanka assembly constituency," he said.
Also, despite a Modi-wave in last Lok Sabha elections, he won from Chikkaballapur, defeating then BJP candidate B N Bache Gowda by just over 9,000 votes, Moily said.
This time, there is a direct contest between BJP and Congress on the seat after the coalition formed between the grand old party and the JD(S).
Asked if the absence of a JD(S) candidate will consolidate Vokkaliga votes for Bache Gowda, who belongs to the same community, Moily said it would have been so had his rival BJP candidate worked for the constituency.
"When he was the transport minister, he could not even provide a bus stand here. He could not build a good hospital. He did not do anything on underground drainage system. All these, I have done. I don't think Vokkaliga votes will consolidate in BJP's favour," he said.
Asked if discord between JD(S) and Congress in Mandya is having a ripple effect in all parliamentary seats in Karnataka, Moily said, "Both coalition partners are fighting together. More than any constituency, there is much more harmony between JD(S) and us," he said.
The constituency has about 5.75 lakh SC/ST voters, 1.2 lakh Kuruba voters and 1.5 lakh each of OBC and Balija voters. The BSP commands its own vote base, including those of educated SC/ST voters.
The election to the parliamentary constituency will be held on April 18.