In the 2003 Karnataka elections, the Congress won seven of the eight Assembly seats in Dakshina Kannada, a communal cauldron in coastal Karnataka, riding a wave against misgovernance of BJP in the state. Mangalore is one of the Assembly segments in Dakshina Kannada constituency and is held by the BJP.
A year after Congress came to power in Karnataka, the party is hoping the disillusionment with BJP in the state would not have been offset by the popularity of BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. The Congress is looking at winning Dakshina Kannada Lok Sabha seat the party won the last time in 1991 by Congress leader Janardhan Poojary. His attempts to win it since then, including in 2009 against political novice Nalin Kumar Kateel, failed.
The 77-year-old Poojary is trying yet again. He will face Nalin, who is from the Bunt community, a dominant, majority community. The BJP gave another chance to Nalin though his performance as MP was not impressive and there were talks of replacing him.
Poojary’s task is not easy. He had not enjoyed confidence of Congress but won the ‘primaries’ to become the candidate. There are fissures in the Congress unit, as in 2009.
The Congress local unit is banking on sympathy factor for Poojary, who announced it would be his last attempt to win the seat. This has increased resolve among Congress cadres to help him win.
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Congress sources said Poojary is reaching out to his backward Billava community which has 3.3 lakh of the 15.3 lakh voters. The community had been supporting BJP on account of neglect by Congress. With BJP also neglecting the community, Billavas are returning to Congress, party sources claimed.
“Billavas and Bunts realized there is no point in supporting BJP. Many have agreed to support Poojary,” a Congress party worker said.
Muslim votes of the Congress are likely to be divided because of aggressive campaign by Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) a largely Muslim party in the region.
Learning from its defeat in 2013, the BJP has toned down Hindutva issues like cow slaughter, anti-conversion and “love jihad” and is focusing on development, employment and women’s safety.
Despite that, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bajrang Dal and Hindu Jagaran Vedike (HJV) are supporting the BJP. “We are confident once they are in power they will raise these issues,” state convener of Bajarang Dal, Sharan Pumpwell said.
Sangh activists are also angry with Congress for bringing activists in a rowdy list that threatens them with imprisonment without bail for any new offence. AAP is in the fray but fights between former district President Robert Rosario and AAP candidate M R Vasudev have marred its prospects in urban pockets.