Now Home, Can Puttannaiah Jr Get K’taka Farmers What They Want?

Darshan Puttannaiah, son of veteran leader KS Puttannaiah, has managed to win farmers’ hearts. Will it be enough?

4 min read

Editor: Sandeep Suman
Cameraperson: TK Smitha

The sun was blazing, sending sweat trickling down our foreheads. But that didn’t dampen the high spirits in Pandavapura, a remote village in Karnataka. Men, women, grandmothers and kids were on the streets to see this prodigal son. Dhols echoed, green shawls were twirled in the air, old women sat around the banyan tree sharing stories of ‘back then...’ when the senior Puttannaiah was around.

I was on the campaign trail with Darshan Puttannaiah, son of the veteran leader KS Puttannaiah who recently passed away. The excitement for him was palpable, built on the foundations of his father’s legacy.

Clad in jeans and a shirt with a green shawl over his shoulder, Darshan Puttannaiah has left behind the last 15 years of his life in the US to make a mark in his hometown.

He will be making his political debut at Melukote in Karnataka’s Mandya district for Swaraj India in the 2018 Assembly Elections.

KS Puttannaiah was the lone farmers’ leader in the Legislative Assembly. His demise was seen as a big blow to Karnataka’s farmer movement.

Whether it was the issue of loans, fixing the procurement price for sugarcane, the Cauvery water-sharing arrangement, drought, drinking water, farmers’ suicides and harassment by private financiers, he was always at the forefront, raising his voice for the farmers.

It’s not for no reason that the villagers in the Pandavapura district call him the ‘son of the soil.’

KS Puttannaiah was a legislator who had always rallied for farmers.
KS Puttannaiah was a legislator who had always rallied for farmers.
(Photo Courtesy: Facebook/KS Puttannaiah)

Mamta, a resident of Pandavapura, told The Quint:

We had an acute water shortage here. KS Puttannaiah had arranged for drinking water in over 60 villages. He is the real son of the soil. Just like how his father did so much good for the farmers, we believe his son will also work for us.
Mamta, Padavapura Taluk, Mandya

After being away for 15 years, his father’s untimely death has brought the junior Puttannaiah to the stage. His aim? To take his father’s work forward.

Having completed his engineering from Sri Jayachamarajendra College of Engineering in Mysuru, he then went to the US, where he became Chief Executive Officer of Qwinix Technologies Inc, a software design company founded in 2012. Now, he wants to bring new technology to farmers who still practice traditional farming in Mandya, he wants to educate farmers about alternate farming methods, and he wants to build infrastructure.

The election frenzy is quite obvious in the Pandavapura village.
The election frenzy is quite obvious in the Pandavapura village.
(Photo: TK Smitha / The Quint)

Mandya is located at the heart of the Cauvery water-sharing dispute – a very sensitive district. For years, there has been a raging battle between the JD(S) and Congress to win elections and gain farmers’ trust. And this time, Congress has chosen not to field any candidate from Melukote, and back the young Puttannaiah instead.

Darshan says that although he has lived away for 15 years, he has always been connected to his roots. The farmers of this land believe in him too – a trust that was evident in the thousands that marched with him the day he filed his nomination.

It has always been in me, because I have grown up in a farming family. That is what my father did his entire life and now I will work out how we can solve our problems with what I know – technology.
Darshan Puttannaiah, Candidate, Melukote Constituency
Green scarves twirled in the air to celebrate Puttannaiah.
Green scarves twirled in the air to celebrate Puttannaiah.
(Photo: TK Smitha / The Quint)

So what is on Puttannaiah’s agenda that has earned their trust?

What we can do is we can waive loans and come up with a minimum support price cap to make the farmers free of debts. And then start educating them about alternate ways of farming. We can also teach them proper financial management.
Darshan Puttannaiah, Candidate, Melukote Constituency

‘Creating a Cauvery Family’

For the voters here, the Cauvery water-sharing issue is the deciding factor. KS Puttannaiah had urged the constitution of a committee to study rainfall and determine how much water reaches both states. Mutual talks were key, he believed. Darshan echoes the same sentiments.

Between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, let us create a bipartisan group and let us understand the ground reality rather than fighting and going to court.
Darshan Puttannaiah, Candidate, Melukote Constituency
The campaigning vehicle was a popular photo-booth for the villagers.
The campaigning vehicle was a popular photo-booth for the villagers.
(Photo: TK Smitha/The Quint)
This is how my father approached this – he created a Cauvery family with farmers from both the states sitting together to come up with a solution because they are the ones who really understand the ground reality.
Darshan Puttannaiah, Candidate, Melukote Constituency

Puttannaiah is gaining the trust of youngsters by tapping into their mood – they believe the need of the hour is a leader for whom farmer issues are a priority, and for whom technology is a modern solution to age-old problems.

We want affordable minimal selling price for ragi, tomato, sugarcane. We want them to revive the sugar factories. We want a farmers’ movement and a farmer leader and so we are standing by Darshan Puttannaiah.
Lokesh, Resident, Pandavapura Taluk, Melkote 

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