Haladi faces challenges in Kundapur this time

Haladi faces challenges in Kundapur this time

Haladi Srinivas Shetty

Kundapur: Kundapur Legislative Assembly constituency is currently emerging as the most crucial and challenging for the sitting MLA Haladi Srinivas Shetty, who has been on a winning spree since 1999, following the stringent opposition and dissent within his own party.

The constituency comprises 31 villages of Udupi taluk and 36 villages of Kundapur taluk following the delimitation exercise. This also includes some Naxal infested hamlets. As many as 23 wards of Kundapur TMC and 14 wards of Saligrama Town Panchayat make up the entire Kundapur constituency.

It was a long-time stronghold of Congress up to 1999. In 1999, BJP candidate Haladi Srinivas Shetty broke the Congress monopoly. He won consequently three times on a BJP ticket (1999, 2004 and 2008) to end up as an Independent candidate in 2013 and emerge victorious.

This time, it is a straight contest between Haladi and Congress candidate Rakesh Malli, who is a new face for the people. Despite his less-known identity, Malli has been working on the ground since several months and is trying to build rapport with the people. He is confident that voters will prefer him over Haladi as the constituency remains underdeveloped despite supporting Haladi for four consecutive times.

The question now arises is how far Malli will be able to uproot Haladi who has strong roots and hold over the voters. The disadvantage factor against Haladi that can be worked out by the Congress is to encash the dissent within the BJP against the candidature of Haladi. Unlike the last Assembly polls, the present one is a  straight fight between Congress and BJP. Haladi, who contested as an Independent candidate, is back to BJP and has been also given a ticket to contest the election.

Problems galore

A glance at the past political condition of the constituency reveals that it has been a harbinger for stability and there were few occasions of change in the loyalty.

Following the Congress debacle in the late 1990s, the BJP that clinched the power had a smooth sail for nearly three times. The prominent and long enduring problem in the constituency is the incomplete Varahi irrigation project which was started in 1979. The incomplete project has been always the priority of the poll manifesto for all the leading parties. Sadly, the promise has remained just a for lip service and farmers are hardly benefited.

Another major problem in the area is incomplete and irregular drainage systems which have disruptive connections in the town areas. The other problems include sea erosion in the coast, acute drinking water problem, power shortage and inadequate infrastructure amenities in the Naxal affected areas, lack of connective roads and underdeveloped rural areas. Besides, the constituency houses several Kudrus (islands) which is totally detached from the outside world.

Bunts and Billavas dominate the social structure in the constituency. Haladi told DH that he is totally committed for the cause of the development. He said he firmly believes in social justice and dissent in his party will not affect him as he shares a special rapport with the voters in the constituency. "They know the works I have done," he added.

Malli said that he is not a new comer as he is working with the people since a long time. The people in the constituency need change and it will benefit Congress, he added.

Major Candidates in the fray

Haladi Srinivas Shetty (BJP)
Rakesh Malli (Congress)

Total number of voters: 1,99,575

Men: 95,927
Women: 1,03,648

2013 assembly results

Total number of votes: 1,81,949
Total number of votes polled: 1,38,983
Haladi Srinivas Shetty (Ind): 80,563
Mallaydi Shivaram Shetty (Congress): 39,952
Kishore Kumar (BJP): 14,524