Coastal, Malnad K’taka: Cong challenges Sangh grip over ‘Hindutva lab’
- The coastal and malnad (hilly) Karnataka region is called the Hindutva laboratory of the BJP and the Sangh Parivar by the opposition parties and progressive thinkers. Both the provinces have turned into a stronghold of the BJP. However, in a changed scenario, this time the Congress party riding on anti-incumbency is vigorously challenging the saffron supremacy.
Bengaluru: The coastal and malnad (hilly) Karnataka region is called the Hindutva laboratory of the BJP and the Sangh Parivar by the opposition parties and progressive thinkers. Both the provinces have turned into a stronghold of the BJP. However, in a changed scenario, this time the Congress party riding on anti-incumbency is vigorously challenging the saffron supremacy.
Both the regions are deeply divided on communal lines. The revenge killings have shattered the region and the entire state. The Bharatiya Janata Party had to put in all its efforts to defuse the anger of the Hindu activists after the murder of the BJP Yuva Morcha’s Praveen Kumar Nettaru.
The BJP government’s reluctance to visit revenge killing victim Mohammad Fazil’s house and console his family had raised concerns. BJP leaders had queued up before Praveen’s residence and announced compensation from the government, but did not even mention Fazil.
The hijab crisis made international headlines stemming from the coastal district of Udupi. The murder of Bajrang Dal activist Harsha, stabbing incidents over installations of flexes and the Dattatreya Bababudangiri Peetha row in the malnad districts of Shivamogga and Chikkamagaluru has put the entire region on edge.
Coastal Karnataka comprises Dakshina Kannada, Udupi and Uttara Kannada districts. The three districts have 19 assembly seats. Presently the BJP holds 17 while the Congress has only two seats.
Shivamogga, Chikkamagaluru and Kodagu districts are in the malnad region and they have 14 assembly seats of which 12 are with the BJP and and two with the Congress. Both the regions are very well represented in the state cabinet and wield considerable influence on the government.
Home Minister Araga Jnanendra, BJP national general secretary C.T. Ravi, former chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa and former minister K.S. Eshwarappa hail from the malnad region. Minister for Power, Kannada and Culture, Hindutva leader V. Sunil Kumar, Minister for Fisheries, Ports S. Angara, Legislative Assembly Speaker Vishveshwara Hegde Kageri and Minister for Sugar Shivaram Hebbar are from the coastal districts.
R. V. Deshapande, U.T. Khader, Vinay Kumar Sorake are prominent Congress leaders from the region.
Though it is considered a BJP bastion, there is a close fight this time between the Congress and the saffron party in the coastal Karnataka region. The party had denied tickets to Minister for Fisheries S. Angara, some sitting MLAs and senior leaders Raghupathy Bhat and Sanjeeva Mathandur.
Six-time MLA from Kundapura constituency in Udupi district Halady Srinivasa Shetty has announced retirement from electoral politics.
The inner strife in the BJP is simmering and the Congress will benefit from the development. Sources say that the grand old party is likely to bag about 12 seats from the coastal region. However, the BJP seems to be confident about polarisation of votes after the visits of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah to the state.
Karnataka Congress president D.K. Shivakumar stated that the party would win considerably more seats in the coastal belt this time. “In Byndoor of Udupi district, about 3,000 BJP workers joined the Congress and vowed to defeat the BJP. The same vibes are in Udupi and Belthangady constituencies. The state leaders have delivered a corrupt government.”
The BJP government is claiming that the state had attracted Rs 10 lakh crore investment. How much of it has come to coastal Karnataka? Why is there no investment of at least Rs 500 crores in this region, which is known for its academia and talent? The youths of this region are going to other states and countries, Shivakumar stated.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has also visited the region and interacted with fishermen while also attacking the BJP. He recalled that Mangaluru Port was built by his grandmother late Indira Gandhi. The Mangaluru International Airport and Mangaluru Petroleum and Refinery are the Congress contributions to the region.
Rahul Gandhi had also raked up the issue of nationalisation of the Corporation, Canara, Syndicate and Vijaya banks by the BJP government. “All four banks were founded in this region and all of them have been merged with others,” he stated.
In Chikkamagaluru district, sitting BJP MLA M.P. Kumaraswamy had rebelled after the denial of a ticket and is contesting the elections as a JD (S) candidate from Mudigere seat. The Congress has made H.D. Thammaiah, a former right hand man of C.T. Ravi, his opponent for the Chikkamagaluru seat. The BJP held four of the five assembly seats in the district.
The Congress and the BJP both appear to be confident and it is to be seen how things turn out.
BJP spokesperson Yashas B. S. told IANS that the party is built on the basis of ideology in the coastal regions unlike in central, north and south Karnataka where caste plays a prominent role. The elections are fought on the basis of the individual and the party. The money factor will also not work.
The BJP had experimented with new faces in the last elections. Vedavyas Kamath, Harish Poonja and Dr. Bharath Shetty were given tickets for the first time and they won. The region is a laboratory for the party, Yashas explained.
Yashas said that in Kodagu district there is no problem for the BJP. In Chikkamagalur, C.T. Ravi holds one of the prominent posts at the national level in the party and Shivamogga is the place from where our tallest leader in the state, former CM B.S. Yediyurappa and former minister K.S. Eshwarappa hail from. The party will win the maximum seats.