MANGALURU: In 2018, the BJP almost swept the entire coastal Karnataka garnering 16 of 19 seats. This tally rose to 17 after the 2019 by-election.This time, riding high on the Modi factor and achievements of the double-engine government, the saffron party is trying its best to hold on to its fort even as Congress is trying to breach the bastion by banking on the anti-incumbency factor and corruption charges against the ruling dispensation.
Except in one or two segments where JDS has some presence, it appears to be a straight contest between BJP and Congress elsewhere in the region, which has Dakshina Kannada, Udupi and Uttara Kannada districts. It is too early to tell whether the fledgling AAP and SDPI will have any impact here.
Congress is looking to increase its 2019 tally of just two seats, and the party could bag a few more if it fields the right candidates. But already, dissidence is brewing over the selection of candidates in some seats. Congress is, however, confident of winning Bantwal, Bhatkal and Kaup.
Veterans like RV Deshpande, B Ramanath Rai and Vinay Kumar Sorake, who are contesting from these seats, have appealed to voters’ emotions saying it will be their last election. The party is also going all out to win back the Backward Classes, telling them that BJP is misusing them for political gains.
In 2018, BJP triumphed because of issues surrounding Paresh Mesta’s death. But the CBI later filed a B report in the case, much to the party’s embarrassment.
Congress is also blaming hate crimes and ‘moral policing’ for the region’s failure to attract enough investment, resulting in the migration of youth. But BJP has countered this narrative, blaming Congress’ ‘minority appeasement’ politics for the ills plaguing the region. It is turning arrests in alleged terror activities by NIA in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi to its advantage to drive home the message that only the BJP can cleanse the region of anti-national elements.
Setting up of Shree Narayana Guru Development Corporation and installing his statue at a major junction has helped the party blunt the opposition attack that it is ignoring Narayan Guru or Billavas. BJP workers were upset over the murder of party Yuva Morcha member Praveen Nettaru, but the party appears to have managed to douse the fire.
The cabinet’s recent decision on increasing the quota for Lingayats and Vokkaligas and internal reservation for Dalits will not have much impact here because of their slender population. But one has to see whether scrapping the 4 per cent Muslim quota will have any impact. There is a feeling that allowing Muslims to claim quota in the EWS pool will affect the upper castes in the coastal region more than anywhere else.