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In Karnataka, Rahul Gandhi goes where no politician dares

In Karnataka, Rahul Gandhi goes where no politician dares
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First Published: Wed, Mar 26 2008. 12 48 AM IST
Updated: Wed, Mar 26 2008. 12 48 AM IST
Bangalore: Rahul Gandhi is up against a jinx. Or, maybe, the Congress party general secretary believes he can’t really lose what he doesn’t have anyway.
Otherwise, why would Gandhi start his five-day pre-election tour of Karnataka in Billigiri Rangana Hills (BR Hills), which is located in this southern state’s Chamarajanagar district, ask some curious Congressmen. For, state political folklore firmly has it that visiting the district, let alone starting off an election tour, is “inauspicious” and a sure way to commit political suicide.
Legend has it that at least five state chief ministers, starting with Devaraj Urs in 1980, couldn’t hold on to their chairs for long after their last visit to the district. The other supposed victims of the jinx being R. Gundu Rao, Ramakrishna Hegde, S.R. Bommai and Veerendra Patil.
Indeed, from other chief ministers to Union ministers, most Karnataka politicians have steered clear of the district.
Then, Karnataka’s last chief minister H.D. Kumaaraswamy became the first chief minister in 17 years to venture into Chamarajanagar on a tour in May. Just five months later, he was out of a job. Doesn’t matter it was the fallout of a power-sharing deal gone bad, the soothsayers, including several politicians, all point to the Chamarajanagar jinx.
So, what made the Gandhi scion tempt fate in a state that is a critical battleground for his party and could set the pace for several key elections later in the year?
“Normally, a person in a position of power avoids visiting Chamarajanagar, but Rahul Gandhi decided to go in spite of being briefed about it,” claims G. Parameshwar, former Karnataka higher education minister and a member of the Central Congress Working Committee.
The jinx theory is “utter nonsense,” says V.S. Rama Devi, a former Karnataka governor who visited the district during her term which ended in 2002. “It must have been sheer coincidence that some CMs lost their jobs after visiting the district.” Easier said perhaps since governors are appointed and don’t need votes to keep their jobs.
Gandhi met with local tribals in Chamarajanagar, which borders Tamil Nadu and remains among the most backward districts in Karnataka despite being rich in minerals.
And what does the local state assembly representative think of all this?
“In this day and age it is hard to belive that people still go by silly superstition,” says Vatal Nagraj, who is the lone MLA representing the Karnataka Chaluvali Vatal Paksha party. “Rahul Gandhi might not be able to help Congress prospects much by his visit but, that has got nothing to do with any jinx.”
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First Published: Wed, Mar 26 2008. 12 48 AM IST