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Move to drop 'unpopular' MP, caste equations, national issues may help BJP

Cong nominee banks on Bunt votes, 'miffed' fishermen community
Last Updated : 15 April 2024, 00:31 IST
Last Updated : 15 April 2024, 00:31 IST

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Seasoned politicians Kota Srinivas Poojary (64) from BJP and K Jayaprakash Hegde (72) from Congress, pitted against each other in Udupi-Chikmagalur Lok Sabha constituency, have crossed paths in the past too. 

Poojary was defeated by Hegde, contesting as an Independent in the Assembly elections from Brahmavar in 1999 and in 2004 (before Brahmavar was merged with other Assembly constituencies during the delimitation in 2008).

The BJP leadership’s decision to field Poojary, a former minister and leader of the Opposition in the Council, in place of sitting MP and Union Minister Shobha Karandlaje did not come as a surprise to many following the developments in the segment.

BJP leaders in Chikkamagaluru had launched an intensive post card and ‘Go-back Shobha’ campaign. The BJP leadership, by fielding Poojary, not only tackled anti-incumbency, but also had caste equations in mind.

Poojary, belonging to Billava community, enjoys huge popularity particularly among other backward classes (OBC) due to his unpretentious nature. 

Jayaprakash Hegde, belonging to Bunt community, had won the byelection held to the Udupi-Chikmagalur segment in 2012. But he could not retain the seat in the general elections in 2014.

His political career hit a low after being expelled from the Congress for contesting as a rebel candidate for the election to the Legislative Council in 2015.

Within a decade he was back in reckoning and quit the BJP ahead of the announcement of candidates by the Congress for the Lok Sabha elections.

At Aldur in Mudigere SC reserved Assembly constituency, a Congress bastion, Congress MLA Nayana Motamma and leaders like former BJP MLA M P Kumaraswamy made passionate appeals to party workers to ensure a lead of 15,000 votes in each Assembly segment for the Congress candidate.  

“It’s a tough fight between BJP and Congress,” declares Murugesh, who runs a footwear shop near the KSRTC bus stand in Chikkamagaluru.

Voters are unhappy over the lack of development works, said Suresh, an autorickshaw driver in Kalasa.

Ashish, a book seller in Koteshwar near Kundapur, says Congress has an advantage due to ‘caste polarisation’.

Hegde recently met five-time MLA Halady Srinivas Shetty to end an old rivalry and enlist the support of members of the Bunt community, he recalls. 

Vani, hailing from the Mogaveera fishing community in Udupi, says the community people, unhappy over the BJP ticket being denied to former MLA Pramod Madhwaraj, would vote for Congress.

A group of elderly women, taking a walk at the Netaji Subashchandra Bose stadium in Chikkamagaluru, had a
different  take. They said the BJP had an edge in the constituency as many tend to vote keeping the country’s security in mind.

Prashanth, a lecturer at the industrial training institute (ITI) in Chikkamagaluru, said the district was not a Congress bastion as BJP candidates had lost to Congress candidates in the Assembly elections in the district by narrow margins (Nayana won the Mudigere constituency by a margin of just over 700 votes).

A hotelier in Sringeri said a few Congress party workers from Billava community, known to him personally, switched sides when Poojary was declared as the BJP’s candidate.

“BJP will win by a huge margin if members of Vokkaliga community also decide to vote in favour of the party,” he said. 

Sanjal Shastri, political analyst and assistant professor, FLAME University in Pune, says this time too the ‘Modi factor’ will help the BJP win, despite the unpopularity of the sitting MP.

Trends indicate that people tend to vote on national issues during the general elections and local issues during Assembly elections, he said.

Caste equations, national issues, BJP’s quick action to tackle anti-incumbency against the sitting MP are likely to translate into votes for the saffron party, Shastri said. 

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Published 15 April 2024, 00:31 IST

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