Absence of Cong, Modi factor give Hegde narrow edge

The Uttara Kannada Lok Sabha constituency, nestled between the Arabian Sea and the Western Ghats, is awash with Modi wave, giving the five-time BJP MP Anantkumar Hegde a narrow edge over the coalition candidate Anand Asnotikar.

A senior Congman says Anantkumar Hegde is lucky while a farmer adds he’s not happy with the BJP MP’s performance, but he will vote for Modi. Now, these statements sum up the situation.

The constituency over the last two to three decades had witnessed a straight fight between the Congress and the JD(S).

Firebrand Hindutva leader Anantkumar Hegde won the seat for the first time in 1996 elections. He was re-elected in 1998, but lost to Margaret Alva in 1999. Hegde wrested the seat from the Congress in 2004. He retained the seat in 2009 and in 2014. Hegde edged out Prashant Deshpande of Congress in the last election.

This time around, the grand old party is not in the picture. As per the seat-sharing agreement, the Congress has ceded its once-bastion to its alliance partner the JD(S).

Senior Congress leaders from the district R V Deshpande and Margaret Alva were not amused with the party leadership to concede the constituency to the JD(S). 

“Margaret Alva and I wanted Uttara Kannada seat for Congress as the party has a solid base here. But the party leadership ceded the seat to the JD(S). Disappointed, but we have to obey the decision. Congress leaders and workers in the district are working for the victory of Anand,” said Revenue Minister R V Deshpande.

But the Congress leaders, including former MLA Satish Sail, did not show any interest in campaigning for Asnotikar.

Deshpande and Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy attended road shows and election rallies in the last few days of public campaigning, seeking votes for coalition candidate Asnotikar.

Anand Asnotikar comes from a political family. He made a successful debut in the electoral politics in 2009 Assembly elections from Karwar on Congress ticket. He lost the next two Assembly elections - on BJP ticket (2013) and as a JD(S) candidate in 2018. He is banking on the poor report card of incumbent MP.  

The constituency with geographic and demographic diversity has a reputation to throw unexpected results. The likes of former chief minister Ramakrishna Hegde, Jnanpith awardee Shivaram Karanth and actor Anant Nag.  

A lecturer in Siddapur says, “Yes, Hindutva is one of the factors here. But there are many issues which would determine the outcome of the election. JD(S) candidate still has a chance to upset Hegde’s plans, if he could manage to pocket the Congress votes.”

But, Modi factor, absence of the Congress symbol in the ballot (EVM), and BJP’s traditional vote bank give Hegde the edge over Asnotikar. This despite the fact that no big names in the saffron fold campaigned for Hegde. But it won’t be a stroll in the park for Hegde, this time.

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