The one district in Karnataka that has continued to haunt every chief minister of the state is Chamarajanagar. The southernmost district of the state dotted with scenic hills and forests, even today, bears the cross of being ‘jinxed’.
Carved out of the original large district of Mysore, it is widely believed that whichever chief minister steps foot in Chamrajanagar, will lose their position and power.
Though SM Krishna, BS Yediyurappa and HD Kumaraswamy did not dare to venture into the Chamrajanagar when they were serving as chief ministers, incumbent Basavaraj Bommai and Siddaramaiah took up the challenge and broke the “jinx” by visiting the district several times.
In his 20 months as chief minister, Bommai visited the district twice. The first was on October 7, 2021, when he accompanied then president Ram Nath Kovind who was inaugurating a new facility attached to the government-run Chamarajanagar Institute of Medical Sciences.
The second visit was timed in December last year, just as the election fever began gaining ground in the state, Bommai was seen inaugurating and laying foundation stones for various development projects in the district as a run-up to the elections. Backing his decision to visit the ‘jinxed’ district, Bommai had said it was his duty as the CM of the state to visit every district headquarters and Chamarajanagar will not be left out because of a false belief.
In 2007, then chief minister HD Kumaraswamy, a firm believer in superstitions, visited the town in 2007 “against the advice of his family and well-wishers”. The JDS-BJP government collapsed in October 2007.
Jagdish Shettar, who was CM between July 2012 and May 2013, also visited the district during his short tenure. It was later said he has been unable to come back to occupy the CM seat since.
But it was Siddaramaiah, a self-confessed agnostic, who took the challenge of visiting Chamarajanagar, not once but nine times since he assumed the office as CM in May 2013. Siddarmaiah had made a public statement at that time that if a chief minister hopes to complete a full term in office, then he should visit Chamrajanagar regularly. Incidentally, Siddaramaiah was the only other Karnataka CM since Devaraj Urs to have completed a full five-year term.
The ‘Chamrajnagar jinx’, although delayed, is said to have caught up with the Congress veteran leader. In the subsequent election held in 2018, despite Congress and JDS alliance to form the government, Siddaramaiah was unable to occupy the chief ministerial seat.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also took up the Chamarajanagar challenge and launched the second leg of the 2018 Karnataka polls by addressing a mega rally in Santhemaralli, which is part of Chamarajanagar taluk. He was the only PM in 40 years to have ventured into the district after Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi.
The blind belief in the ‘Chamrajnagar jinx’ began when Karnataka’s former CM late Devaraj Urs visited the town in 1980. Within six months of the visit, Urs lost power. The fearful reputation of the district gained ground when later chief ministers late R Gundu Rao, Ramakrishna Hegde, SR Bommai, and Veerendra Patil coincidentally lost power within months of visiting Chamrajanagar.
Rao lost power in January 1983, within a month of his visit while his successor Ramakrishna Hegde also faced it. He was allegedly ‘jinxed’ as he was forced to step down following a wiretapping scandal in 1988.
SR Bommai’s government faced dismissal, and the ‘Chamarajanagar jinx’ was also tagged as one of the many reasons for its fall.
While the above instances could have been brushed aside as mere coincidences, the real fear began to grip Karnataka politicians when in 1990, then chief minister Veerendra Patil, who visited Chamarajanagar, coincidentally, was removed from the CM post by Rajiv Gandhi within months. Since Patil, chief ministers have avoided visiting or even campaigning in Chamarajanagar for fear of loss of power.
On August 15, 1997, during the chief ministerial tenure of JH Patel, the present district of Chamarajanagar was carved out of Mysore (now called Mysuru) for efficient governance. Ironically, Patel, who called himself as a “progressive thinker”, held the inaugural ceremony for the district at a location in nearby MM Hills. He did not even visit Chamarajanagar en route.
Such is the apathy that today, 25 years later, Chamarajanagar continues to remain one of the neglected districts in Karnataka. It is ranked 27 out of the 30 districts in Karnataka, according to the state’s economic survey, 2021-22.
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