KARNATAKA ELECTIONS 2013 - Image-battered BJP faces a buoyed Congress in Udupi

Ganesh Prabhu

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Island music festival and sleaze CD row have sullied the image of the party

The Udupi Assembly constituency is a blend of traditional and modernity. It is home to the famous Sri Krishna Math established by the exponent of Dwaita philosophy Acharya Madhwa. This temple, along with the Ashta Maths, is the seat of Dwaita philosophy. But the constituency is also home to educational institutions, majority of which are in Manipal.

The Congress has scored over the Bharatiya Janata Party in seven of the 12 Assembly elections in the constituency. The BJP candidates emerged victorious from Udupi on three occasions while the Praja Socialist Party and the Karnataka Congress party have won the elections once each.

Government employees participating in a procession to encourage urban voters to exercise their franchise, in Udupi on Friday.

Awareness about vote and Oath Taking Ceremony at womens college, Udupi.

300 Laborers get Election Training in Udupi

The main problems dogging the constituency include the water scarcity during summer, lack of underground drainage system, and the sick Brahmavar Sugar Factory, which has an accumulated loss of more than Rs. 40 crore.

Shakuntala Suvarna, a poter at the Malpe fisheries harbour, said water supply had been erratic and she got water once in two days during the summer.

Pradeep T. Mendon, who runs a mobile recharging shop, said MLA K. Raghupati Bhat had been selective in taking up development work. While he had developed the Malpe Kola area, he had neglected Kalmady, he said.

The two-term MLA Mr. Bhat dropped out of the race after a television channel aired clips of a CD showing a man purported to be him with a woman in a bed.

The BJP chose the former vice-president of the Udupi municipality B. Sudhakar Shetty as its candidate. In 1999, Mr. Shetty had lost to Congress candidate U.R. Sabhapathi by a margin of 710 votes. When the BJP preferred Mr. Bhat over him in the 2004 Assembly elections, Mr. Shetty contested as an independent, but was pushed to the third place.

Mr. Bhat made his Assembly debut by defeating Mr. Sabhapathi of the Congress by a margin of 1,533 votes. Mr. Shetty then joined the Samajwadi Party under the former Chief Minister S. Bangarappa, but soon returned to the BJP. He was rewarded with the chairmanship of the Udupi Urban Development Authority (2009-12).

The Congress, on the other hand, has fallen back on businessman Pramod Madhwaraj, who lost to Bhat in 2008 by a margin of 2,479 votes. Earlier in 2004, Mr. Madhwaraj lost to K. Jayaprakash Hegde, who contested as an independent candidate from the erstwhile Brahmavar constituency.

Development card

The BJP is banking on the development work carried out in the constituency such as widening of the Udupi-Manipal Road, construction of the District Offices Complex during the last five years. “The development that Udupi and Brahmavar have seen in the last five years is unparalleled,” Mr. Shetty said.

However, the image of the party took a beating after controversies erupted over his ‘support’ to a music festival on St. Mary’s Island in February, 2012, which allegedly saw free flow of drugs and liquor.

The resentment of the electorate was reflected in the Udupi City Municipal Council elections, where the BJP lost to the Congress for the first time in 45 years.

The Congress is visibly buoyed by its performance in the local body elections. But it is also banking on Mr. Madhwaraj’s image as a philanthropist and also on his efforts to provide water through tankers in areas hit by water scarcity. “I have spelt out the roadmap for the development of the constituency in Vision Udupi-2025 document, which was released a couple of days ago,” said Mr. Madhwaraj.

His father Malpe Madhwaraj won the constituency in 1962 and later his mother Manorama Madhwaraj won the constituency four times. Ms. Madhwaraj had been a minister in various Congress governments since the 1980s.

The Janata Dal (Secular) has fielded Barkur Satish Poojary, the former president of Udupi Taluk Panchayat. Recently he hit the headlines by going on a protest fast demanding taluk status to Brahmavar. . “People know about my fight. I have been a social worker for more than 20 years,” he said.

The BSP candidate Manjunath V. and there independent candidates – Alevoor Yogish Acharya, Tukaram Kotian and Nasir Hussain — complete the line-up.

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