Constituency watch: Social justice vs Hindutva in historical Udupi-Chikmagalur which gave new political life to late PM Indira Gandhi

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Constituency watch: Social justice vs Hindutva in historical Udupi-Chikmagalur which gave new political life to late PM Indira Gandhi

Bengaluru: It is social justice versus Hindutva in the Udupi-Chikmagalur parliamentary seat, where the BJP’s Kota Srinivas Poojari and the Congress’ K Jayaprakash Hegde are facing off.

This constituency, which is a BJP stronghold now, holds historical importance as it was here that late Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, experienced a political resurgence in 1978 after she won the Chikmagalur seat in the Lok Sabha bye-election.

She had been routed in the post-Emergency general elections of 1977 before contesting the bye-election from here. Indira Gandhi defeated Veerendra Patil, a Janata Party candidate by over 70,000 votes.

Political experts say this seat was responsible for Indira Gandhi’s political rebirth as the late Prime Minister went on to become one of the most invincible leaders in the country’s political history.

PM Indira Gandhi’s candidature and victory catapulted Chikmagalur Constituency into the national limelight at that time and election campaign trails and results were keenly followed across India.

Then Chief Minister of Karnataka, D Devaraj Urs, played an important role in Indira Gandhi’s victory as political heavyweights like the late George Fernandes had campaigned against her.

While the Congress raised the ‘Ek Sherni, 100 langur’ slogan, George Fernandes compared the late PM to a cobra who would bite voters.

At present, Hindutva firebrand, Union Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, Shobha Karandlaje, is the sitting MP from the seat.

The parliamentary constituency which is now called Udupi-Chikmagalur is known to be communally sensitive.

The Baba Budangiri Dattatreya Peetha, which once symbolised Hindu-Muslim unity has now become a communal flashpoint and often witnesses riots and moral policing incidents.

The Congress delivered a shock to the BJP in the last Assembly election by winning all seats in Chikmagalur District.

Former BJP National General Secretary, CT Ravi, lost the Chikkamagaluru city segment to his right-hand man, who was fielded by the Congress.

The Udupi-Chikkamagaluru Lok Sabha seat came into existence in 2009 and former CM, DV Sadananda Gowda, had won from here after defeating K Jayaprakash Hegde, who was fielded by the Congress.

However, K Jayaprakash Hegde managed to win the seat for the Congress in the bye-election in 2012.

Shobha Karandlaje won the seat for the BJP in the 2014 and 2019 general elections with a margin of 1.81 lakh and 3.49 lakh votes respectively.

The parliamentary segment comprises Kundapura, Udupi, Kapu, Karkala, Sringeri, Mudigere, Chikkamagaluru, and Tarikere Assembly constituencies.

The BJP and Congress parties have won four seats each. While the BJP managed to win all seats in Udupi, the Congress party had won all seats in Chikkamagaluru District.

Earlier, the Chikkamagaluru Lok Sabha seat was won by the Congress party in 1971, 1977, and 1978. The seat was won by the Praja Socialist Party in 1967.

BL Shankar from the JD(S) had emerged victorious in the 1996 general elections.

Considering the backlash and ‘go back’ campaigns against the candidature of Shobha Karandlaje by the BJP cadre, the party has picked MLC Kota Srinivas Poojari, the Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council for the seat now.

The Congress’ move to field former Chairman of the Permanent Backward Class Commission, K Jayaprakash Hegde, who submitted a controversial caste census report has intensified the competition in the constituency.

Both Kota Srinivas Poojari and Jayaprakash Hegde are known for their clean image, simple nature, and people-friendly attitude.

Both candidates are perceived as credible politicians, each representing different ideologies and strategies.

The BJP high command had fielded Kota Srinivas Poojari to avoid infighting within the party, though CT Ravi, was an aspirant from the seat.

The Congress party is banking on guarantees and its ideology of social justice.

In the run-up to the elections, the competition is getting intense and Jayaprakash Hegde took a swipe at his opponent saying that since the rival BJP candidate Kota Srinivas Poojari does not know Hindi or English, choosing him would not be a wise decision on the part of the voters. However, Kota Srinivas Poojari rebutted that language was not a barrier for him.

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