Drugs, riots and revelry. According to some residents of Pulakeshi Nagar in Bengaluru, these are pressing problems in their constituency. The assembly seat is located just four kilometers from Vidhana Soudha in Karnataka, and suffers from poor infrastructure development and high crime rates.

The recent riots, at DJ Halli in August 2020, continue to be the talking point among constituency voters ahead of next week’s election.

Former Congress MLA Akhanda Srinivas Murthy, caught in the crossfire, is now vying for the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) ticket after being rejected by the old big party ticket for a constituency he twice represented. Congress’s move to drop Moorthy from the electoral race is seen as a strategy to hold on to the support of Muslims, who make up nearly half of the population of Pulakichi Nagar.

On August 11, 2020, Moorthy’s nephew posted on Facebook an insulting remark about the Prophet Muhammad, which sparked violence. The rioters set fire to D.G. Hali’s police station and vandalized and set fire to Moorthy’s house that night.

The three-way ballot battle for the Scheduled Caste (SC) reserved seat is now between Murthy and AC Srinivas of the Congress and A Murali of the BJP.

While residents in some parts of Pulakeshi Nagar speak highly of Murthy as someone who heals people’s problems, Muslim-dominated areas like DJ Halli and Muneshwar Nagar – the epicenter of violence – are full of anger against the Dalit chief. The constituency consists of more than 2.3 electors, of which 1 is Muslim and 75,000 are Tamils. These two groups greatly dictate the results of the survey here. While some feel that Murthy could win even as an independent due to his popularity, others feel that it is a daunting task.

Murthy alleged that “some tall leaders” in the party – referring to state Congress President DK Shivakumar – did not want to see him grow, which is why he lost the ticket. Murthy, a close aide of Siddaramaiah, received nearly one vote in 2018, the highest for any candidate in the state, winning a whopping 77% vote share. It is believed that he garnered a large number of Muslim votes after influential Muslim leaders called for him, although many local congressmen opposed his candidacy.

However, things are different this time. Maulana Zain Abidin Chawali, an influential Islamic leader said, “In 2018, it was we who worked at the grassroots level to ensure that all minority votes go to him (Moorthy). However, after the riots of 2020, things changed. He should have taken action The right of his relative when the defamatory post was lifted.Moreover, many innocent Muslim families were destroyed after the police framed and arrested their relatives in connection with the riots.This time, I think Muslims will stand by the conference, Shawali said.

Although there was some anger against the Congress among Muslims, the lack of choice seemed to work in the party’s favour.

In more bad news for Moorthy, the pro-Muslim group SDPI (Indian Social Democratic Party) has also entered the fray, fielding Bhaskar Prasad, and is expected to cut down Muslim votes. Bharatiya Janata Party member Loralei could get the Tamil vote.

The Congress candidate, in his outreach to Muslims, relies on the popularity of the late CK Jaffer Sharif, the former Union Railways Minister, whom Srinivas referred to as a ‘guru’ during the election campaign.

Congress betrayed me by not giving me the ticket. Mina’s supporters wanted to compete with the National Party. That’s why I chose BSP. Aside from community lines, I feel that people in the constituency will support me in my development work,” said Murthy.

Muhammed Liaqat, a resident of Kaval Perasandra, said, “The district is full of illiteracy, drugs and crime. Lack of education gives rise to riot-like situations and other illegal activities. There are no well-equipped government colleges, schools or libraries in many wards of Pulakeshi Nagar, which is why students in the age group of 16-18 years get involved in criminal activities.”

A relative of the victim who was allegedly framed in DJ Haley’s riot said, “The riot ghosts still haunt us. It will not be wiped out easily. Then local leaders, including Moorthy, did not help innocent Muslims who were accused and arrested by the police. Our family is still You feel the crisis of the struggles we had to go through in the aftermath of the riots.”

H Mahendra, a resident of RT Nagar, said, “Even if Moorthy contests as an independent, he will win. He has taken up civic issues like installing street lights, ensuring water supply, housing the poor and has gained the trust of voters over time.”


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