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The region that greatly favoured the ‘communal forces’

Govind D. Belgaumkar

The BJP won 15 seats in the coastal districts the last time

Whether the party will dominate the political scene now is to be answered

MANGALORE: The coastal region, nestled between the vast Arabian Sea and the global biodiversity hotspot Western Ghats, contributed greatly in 2004 to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which installed its own Chief Minister for the first time in South India, though only for a few days.

The BJP emerged the single largest party with 79 seats in 2004 and 15 of them came from the coastal districts of Uttara Kannada, Udupi and Dakshina Kannada, which together had 21 constituencies. Whether the party will dominate the political scene in the State after the 2008 elections remains to be seen.

Polling will be held on Friday in these districts. Delimitation brought some bad news for the party — two constituencies bagged by it in the region have been done away with.

They are Ankola in Uttara Kannada district and Vittla in Dakshina Kannada.

Though Brahmavar in Udupi too has disappeared, it has no bearing on the party. Yellapur is the new constituency in Uttara Kannada mainly comprising Mundgod and Yellapur taluks.

In Ankola, BJP’s Vishveshwar Hegde Kageri (contesting from Sirsi) had won thrice in a row getting about half the votes polled in the last two elections.

Though the party’s candidate Padmanabh Kottari had won in Vittla constituency, he had done so with a slender margin of about 400 votes.

It could not have been counted as a stronghold of the party. Jayaprakash Hegde, who is contesting as the Congress candidate in Kundapur in Udupi district, had won as an independent candidate from the erstwhile Brahmavar constituency.

In addition to the dissolved constituencies of Ankola and Vittla, the BJP had won in 2004 in Sirsi (then reserved for Scheduled Castes), Bhatkal, Karwar in Uttara Kannada, Kaup, Udupi, Kundapur, Karkala in Udupi district and Mangalore North (erstwhile Surathkal), Mangalore South, Puttur, Sullia, Belthangady and Bantwal in Dakshina Kannada.

The Congress had won Kumta and Haliyal in Uttara Kannada, Baindur in Udupi district and Mangalore (erstwhile Ullal) and Moodbidri in Dakshina Kannada.

Key constituencies

The constituencies to watch for in the region are Haliyal in Uttara Kannada, Bantwal and Puttur in Dakshina Kannada and Kundapur and Udupi in Udupi district.

Deshpande in Haliyal

From Haliyal, the former Minister, R.V. Deshpande, is seeking re-election as Congress candidate.

He has been winning from here since 1983. He is reported to have claimed that he is a chief ministerial candidate.

Two former Ministers, B. Ramanath Rai of the Congress and B. Nagaraja Shetty of the BJP, are contesting in Bantwal while the BJP rebel in Puttur — Shakuntala Shetty — has sought a re-election in the constituency where the BJP State unit president D.V. Sadananda Gowda is fighting hard to defeat her.

In Udupi, Pramod Madhwaraj, son of Udupi MP, Manorama Madhwaraj, is pitted against his childhood friend Raghupati Bhat of the BJP.

Also, the former MLA, U.R. Sabhapathi of the Congress, gave up his claim to the Congress ticket after high drama.

In Kundapur, Jayaprakash Hegde, who had won as an independent candidate in the erstwhile Brahmavar constituency, has been fielded by the Congress.

Interestingly, nine of the 19 constituencies in the region are dominated by women voters, including all the five constituencies of Udupi district.

The other four are in Dakshina Kannada.

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