It’s ’retaining glory’ Vs ’retaliation’ in Puttur


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Cong candidate Shakunthala Shetty is all set to take ‘revenge’ on BJP, which denied her ticket in 2008 polls

Even as the political parties are busy campaigning day and night for the candidates with only nine days left for the assembly elections, speculations are rife from all quarters about the fate of candidates in the Puttur assembly constituency.

The Puttur constituency, which has always pulled the attention during elections for the reasons well known, be it for caste politics, type of candidates in fray or for rebel tendency, the constituency is now all set for yet another political war. During the last assembly elections in 2008, Puttur constituency witnessed some unexpected twists and turns which all began with the BJP refusing to issue ticket to its former MLA T Shakunthala Shetty and replacing her with yet another woman candidate Mallika Prasad, a housewife, who was nowhere in the picture till then.

Disappointed Shetty, rebelled against the party and contested the election as an independent candidate. With thousands of sympathisers backing her and subsequent support from her political mentor and former MLA Urimajalu Ram Bhat, the speculations in the political circle were that the direct fight was between ‘hurt’ Shakunthala Shetty and Congress candidate Bondala Jagannath Shetty. But, the election results proved it otherwise, as Mallika Prasad, a fresh face emerged victorious.

Since the very first assembly election in Puttur constituency in 1957, the Congress and the BJP have tasted the victory six times each. The BJP won for the first time in 1978 with U Ram Bhat as its candidate and retained the seat in the next election too (1985), only to lose in the very next election in 1985 against Congress candidate Vinay Kumar Sorake. However, for the last two decades, Puttur has remained as a strong fort of the BJP, with its candidates D V Sadananda Gowda winning two consecutive elections in 1994 and 1999, followed by Shakunthala Shetty winning in 2004 and Mallika Prasad in 2008 election.

Calculations

As for as this election is concerned, five political parties have fielded their candidates, while an Independent candidate too is in fray. Going by the history of Puttur constituency, the direct competition has always been between the BJP and the Congress, with no triangular contest as no third party or independent candidate ever emerged as the winner so far. And this time too, there are all possibilities of Puttur witnessing a tough fight between BJP candidate Sanjeev Matandoor and Congress candidate Shakunthala Shetty. If for Sanjeev, it is the question of retaining the BJP’s ‘glory,’ for Shetty it is the matter of ‘retaliating’ against the party which once expelled her.

The BJP leaders and workers believe that Shetty’s party hopping nature (BJP- Swambhimani Vedike-Congress) would prove her costly. “During the last election, she might have won 25,171 votes in the form of sympathy votes, but this time the situation is not the same. The very fact that she joined the Congress after being assured that she would get the ticket only shows her selfish motive. Moreover, the internal fight and confusion over the election of candidate till the last minute, will affect the Congress,” predicts Puttur taluk BJP General Secretary Jayaram Poojary.

On the other hand, Congress leaders and workers completely deny the BJP’s claim. Speaking to Deccan Herald, Puttur Town Congress President Lancy Mascarenhas said that the Congress is sure of winning the election with a huge margin as Shetty continues to get personal votes and sympathy votes coupled with the party votes. “She has always been a grassroot worker unlike Sanjeev Matandoor and worked for the people for last five years even though she was away from party politics,” he said.

Hirebandadi GP row

An issue that is said to negatively impact Sanjeev’s luck is the way in which he handled Hirebandadi gram panchayat issue. Sanjeev Matandoor hails from Hirebandadi village and he has also served as a member of the same GP. But, the things went worst when Hirebandadi GP was dissolved an year ago and the gram panchayat does not exist even to this day. “Sanjeev who was the decision maker in the issue, should have then handled it amicably, but he did not do so. An elected system was dissolved much to one’s shame,” said senior Congress worker Dasappa Rai.

Caste politics

Puttur constituency having highest number of voters belonging to Brahmin community has favoured the BJP in last four elections. It is followed by minority voters and then comes the Vokkaligas and Bunts. In this election, minority and Bunt votes are expected to go to the Congress, while Vokkaliga votes are said to get divided between the BJP and the JD(S). BJP candidate Sanjeev Matandoor and JD(S) candidate Dinesh B N both belong to Vokkaliga community, thus the JD(S) candidate might succeed in dividing Vokkaliga votes, which might prove costly to the BJP. In fact, Sanjeev as well as Dinesh happen to be brother-in-laws of former chief minister D V Sadananda Gowda who too hails from Puttur.
Need for development

Puttur constituency consists of 44 villages including 33 in Puttur taluk and 11 in Bantwal taluk. Major problems plaguing Puttur constituency are poor interior roads, shortage of drinking water supply, delay in title deeds distribution, site plotting etc. When Deccan Herald randomly asked a few general public about the developmental work in the constituency, they said that Puttur town was developed much to their satisfaction, but the same can not be told about the villages. “Mallika Prasad might claim of bringing new KSRTC bus stand, Mini Vidhan Sowdha and other projects to the town, but what about the interior roads like Subramanya-Manjeshwara, Eshwaramangala-Galimukha, Eshwaramangala-Sulliapadav, Mudinadka-Sulliapadav. These roads have turned from bad to worse. In fact, she has not developed the road connecting the village where she hails from (Eshwaramangala-Galimukha),” shop keeper Abdullah said, while rickshaw driver Shashiraj Shetty said that in his village panchayat, water is supplied once in four days.

The delay in completion of Mani-Puttur highway too has ignited the wrath of general public. But apart from it, even the opposition party leaders acknowledge the ‘clean’ image of Mallika Prasad.

Now, the question is whether the demand for more development, need for a change, sympathy for lone woman candidate gets converted into votes for the Congress, or will the voters give yet another chance to the BJP to prove its capacity?

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