In Dakhina Kannada, BJP troubled by ticket-seekers, Congress by anti-incumbency

Published: April 10, 2018 - 15:16

The region, a hotbed of communal polarisation in the state, is set to witness a ‘do or die’ battle between the two major contending parties.

A strong anti-incumbency wave against the ruling Congress and a stiff squabble for seats among BJP leaders have made the poll prospects for the May 12 Karnataka Assembly polls intriguing in the coastal region. The region, a hotbed of communal polarisation in the state, is all set for a ‘do or die’ battle between two major contending parties and early indications are that both the BJP and the Congress will share the spoils, with the saffron party attempting to breach into the gains of the Congress in the 2013 elections in which the Congress won seven and the BJP one out of the total eight Assembly segments.
As the state goes to polls on May 12, both the Congress and the BJP are considering every issue from ‘communalism to the development’ agenda to attract voters, before announcing their candidates.
The BJP, unlike on earlier occasions, is facing the heat this time with many of its workers demanding tickets in the seven seats, sources said. The party has announced its lone incumbent MLA from Dakshina Kannada, S. Angara, in Sullia, an SC constituency, in its first list of 72 candidates.
While showing confidence this time to win in all the eight constituencies, the saffron party’s first mammoth task is to select ‘suitable’ candidate for all seats.
According to sources, there are at least two-to-three aspirants for every Assembly seat in Dakshina Kannada.
BJP’s district president Sanjeev Matandoor, however, denied that the party is facing an internal turmoil on ticket distribution, and told UNI that the party will win all the seats in Dakshina Kannada. “The BJP will win all the eight seats. Because, for the last five years, the Dakshina Kannada district has seen no development. Most of the development was the Central government’s projects. Siddaramaiah government did not do anything here,” he said.
But according to sources, Matandoor himself is trying to get a ticket from Puttur constituency, where he lost against the Congress’s Shakunthala Shetty in 2013. Another aspirant, builder Ashok Rai, is also lobbying for the same seat from here.
The last date for filing the nomination is April 24 and April 27 is the last day for withdrawal of nomination. The BJP is in a hurry to calculate the possible winnability of every aspirant.
In Mangaluru South, where the Congress is expecting to field its incumbent MLA JR Lobo, a bureaucrat-turned-politician, the BJP has several aspirants. Sensing a possible win for the BJP in this seat, several aspirants, including industrialist Badrinath Kamath, Vedavyas Kamath, Captain Brijesh Chowta and VHP leader MB Puranik, are lobbying for a ticket to this seat.
Adding to this list is RSS leader and disgruntled BJP leader Srikar Prabhu, who is also planning to contest as an independent candidate.
In Mangaluru North, previously Surathkal, where the BJP is eying to win back the constituency from the Congress’s BA Mohiyuddin Bawa, there are three known aspirants including former Minister Krishna J Palemar, Satyajit Surathkal, and Dr Bharath Shetty.
Another seat, Moodbidri, which the BJP considers one of its strongholds, also has several ticket seekers, including Umakanth Kotian, Dr Sudheer Hegde and Eswar Kateel.
According to a source, Kotian may get the ticket here, as the BJP senses a potential win after Congress’s incumbent MLA Abhayachandra Jain’s earlier announcement that he will retire from active politics.
After announcing retirement, Jain also tried to push the candidature of one of his confidante, which led to widespread criticism in the Congress.
“The party high command should give the ticket to someone from Billava community, which has a major presence in the constituency. But Jain is attempting to give the ticket to one of his ‘henchman,’ who like Jain, is from the land-holding community,” said a party leader requesting anonymity.
While MLC Ivan D’Souza and Mithun Rai’s names had been doing the rounds for some time, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s indication earlier that Jain will contest this seat put the rumours to rest. But party insiders say that the Congress may lose the seat as the party is facing anti-incumbency and a revolt by anti-Jain groups.
Mangaluru (previously Ullal), considered to be a sure seat for the Congress present MLA and state Minister UT Khader, too has several aspirants from the BJP. Boliyar Santhosh Kumar Shetty and Chandrahas Ucchil are frontrunners to this seat, according to sources.
Congress heavyweight and state Minister Ramakanth Rai, according to party leaders, will retain the seat in Bantwal, which is considered one of the epic centres for communal violence in the Dakshina Kannada.
“Whatever happens, Rai will be able to spin the votes. He has many connections not only in BJP but in Sangh Parivar as well. He maintains a secular face, even in the conflict times,” said another Congress leader. 
This seat too has several BJP aspirants, including Rajesh Nayak, who lost last time to Rai, former Minister B Nagaraj Shetty and former MLA Rukmaiah Poojary. 
Belthangady is another constituency which the Congress hopes to retain and where the party may field its veteran incumbent MLA K Vasanth Bangera. In the BJP, at least three of them, including Harish Poonja, Keshav Bengra and Ranjan Gowda, are seeking a ticket there. 
According to the KPCC general secretary and AICC member PV Mohan, the Congress is not facing troubles in ticket distribution.
“The Congress will retain most of its seats in Dakshina Kannada. We are sure about at least four to five seats. The party is working hard to win in all the eight seats. There is no anti-incumbency in the state and especially in Dakshina Kannada districts. The recent road-show of Congress president Rahul Gandhi made a huge impact among the voters,” Mohan told this correspondent.
However, sources from the Congress as well as the BJP indicated that this time in Dakshina Kannada, the Congress and the BJP may win four seats each.
For example, according to many Congress leaders, the party may lose Mangaluru South, as its MLA, JR Lobo is facing ‘dislike’ from a section of the Muslim community, which has a strong presence in the constituency. Many pointed out that some of Lobo’s recent remarks have irked the Muslim community and it may hit back.
Also, as sources pointed out, the BJP is trying hard to win back this crucial seat, which contains a major part of the Mangaluru city.
The early trends, as per the political pundits, indicate that while the Congress may retain four seats such as Mangaluru, Belthangady, Puttur and Bantwal, the party may lose four constituencies, as it faces an anti-incumbency wave in these seats, and the BJP is making an all-out effort to win them.