Ahead of the crucial Karnataka Assembly Elections, all eyes would be on the coast and its adjoining areas. The BJP has pulled out all its tricks in its book to bag the coast and the Congress on the other hand is no mood to give up.
In the 2013 elections, the BJP received a drubbing and managed to bag just one of the five seats and that was at Udupi. In Dakshina Kannada, the BJP could not even win a single seat out of the 8.
When one speaks about the coast, it must be viewed along with Uttara Kannada, Dakshina Kannada, Udupi and Chickmagalur. This is largely because in all elections of the past, a similar voting pattern is witnessed in these regions. In all there are 24 constituencies in the above mentioned regions and the direct battle is between the BJP and Congress.
A heated campaign:
The BJP had put up an impressive performance in this region in 2008 when it came to power. To win back the region, the party has gone for an all out Hindu campaign. A stronghold of the Sangh the coast has always provided for large scale polarisation of votes.
While its performance dipped badly in 2013, it bounced back during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, but this was largely due to a Modi wave.. Leading the charge in the region is BJP, MP, Ananth Kumar Hegde. He has ensured that the Hindu card has been played to the best of his ability. Along with BJP president, Amit Shah, he has also visited the homes of Hindu activists killed in communal violence.
The BJP has accused groups such as the SDPI and PFI for killing 23 of their workers since 2013. At every meeting, these points are raised and the Siddaramaiah government is accused of not just backing the PFI/SDPI, but also withdrawing cases against them.
On religious lines:
The elections this year too would be fought clearly on religious lines here. Back in 2013, the Congress had fielded Moideen Bava from Mangalore North, U T Khader from Mangalore and J R Lobo from Mangalore City South.
For the Congress the gamble paid off. For the BJP, the problem arose with the fact that it was a divided house back then. A large number of people were also upset with the BJP government and the constant infighting. This had led to a split in the votes as a result of which the BJP was defeated.
The Christian factor:
In 2008, it was perceived that a large number of Christians had voted for the BJP. However by 2013, that changed and the Christians voted in large numbers against the BJP. They were upset with the Church attacks which included a strike on the Milagres Church in Mangalore.
The Christians had even come up with a set of Ten Commandments to defeat the BJP in Mangalore and the adjoining areas. As part of this exercise, the Christians ensured that more voters were added to the voters' list. Back in 2009 when this campaign was launched against the BJP, nearly 40,000 new Christian voters had enrolled into the list.
There were also rumours back in 2013 that all members of the Christian community were told to compulsorily vote against the BJP.
This year while speaking to a cross-section of Christians in Mangalore, the mood is no different. Many still remember the attacks and the violence at the pubs. They say that they do not feel safe under the BJP.
The BJP however would not fret too much on this. The Hindus are larger in numbers when compared to the Christians who make up for 13.5 per cent of the population. The Hindus on the other hand account for around 68.99 per cent and the BJP feels that it can get these numbers with ease.
The Congress on the other hand will look to bag the Muslim and Christian votes which make up for 13.15 and 17.40 per cent respectively.
The impact of the coast:
Dr. Sandeep Shastri, leading psephologist says that the coast would play an important role. Mangalore, Udupi, Uttara Kannada and Chickmagalur more or less have similar voting patterns. The trends in Mangalore extend to these regions and hence it is important.
You need to look at the entire region as one in terms of communal polarisation. If you look at the voting patterns in the past, all have had a similar pattern, says Dr. Shastri.
In 2013, the BJP fared badly in these regions owing to the split. The votes were divided between the BJP and KJP, he says. While the vote base of the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections in these constituencies has always remained loyal, in the case of the assembly polls, it has been different. In the assembly elections, one has always witnessed a switch over. Voters do not tend to vote the same party in elections, he also adds.
About the effect of the polarisation that takes place in Mangalore, Dr. Shastri says that it would at best spread to parts of Bangalore city and Belagavi.
|Karnataka Assembly Election dates|
|Date of notification||April 17|
|Last date to file nominations||April 24|
|Last date to withdraw nominations||April 27|
|Date of polling||May 12|
|Date of counting||May 15|