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The race for Bhatkal: Why Namdharis will decide fortune of BJP or Congress


Bhatkal is an important constituency with a little over 2 lakh voters. The name Bhatkal has been in the news for a long time for all the wrong reasons thanks to several founding members of the Indian Mujahideen hailing from this place.

The race for Bhatkal: Why Namdharis will decide fortune of BJP or Congress

The people of Bhatkal have put behind the issue of the Indian Mujahideen and this time around want development. They want the name of their place to be clean again. In fact, Bhatkal was once famous for its biriyanis.

While there is a development plank on one hand, the voters also fear that the elections this year are being fought extensively on religious lines. It was back in 1993 that Bhatkal in the coastal region witnessed its first major communal riot. Since then the place has been divided on communal lines.

The candidates who would battle each other this time are Mankala Subba Vaidya of the Congress and Sunil Naik of the BJP. The majority community in Bhatkal are the Hindus who are at 1.1 lakh. Out of this the Namdharis constitute 72,000 of the Hindu population and for the BJP it is crucial that this vote does not split. The Congress on the other hand would look to take all the 52,000 Muslim votes and also hope for a split in the Hindu votes. There would also be dependance on the rest of the population who are part of the fishermen community who are divided into other castes such as the Ambigas, Pagis, Mogers, Karvis and Gabit.

The Namdhari factor:

The Namdhari factor is extremely crucial for the BJP. The party workers have already been making several appeals to the Hindu community as a whole and ensure that the Hindu votes do not split.

Back in 2013, Vaidya who contested as independent won the elections thanks to a split in the Namdhari votes. Vaidya also benefited from the fact that there were several candidates who contested from the Namdhari community and this ensured that the votes were completely split. The BJP in fact ended up 5th in 2013.

While Vaidya seems to have an upper hand, the BJP is a worried unit. Govinda Naik was in the running for a ticket, but was denied one. This has led to discontentment among several party cadres. While the BJP says that these are temporary issues, it also maintains that it is in with a chance this time.

The key ammunition for the BJP would be the Hindutva card. If it is able to keep the Hindu voters united and ensures that the Namdharis are not split, then it feels it is in with a good chance.

However Vaidya on the other hand has refrained from playing this card. He sticks to his development agenda and says that this would help him retain the seat.

However for Vaidya, the division of the Muslim votes could be a factor. The Majlis-e-Islah-o-Tanzeem, an NGO which represents a majority of the Muslims has a considerable say during the elections. At first it was decided that they would back Enyayatullah Shabandri who was JD(S) aspirant. However now the Shabandri is out of the race and the tanzeem is yet to take a call on whom to back. The tanzeem has a tradition of announcing its support to any candidate, a day before the elections. Shabandri was a strong candidate and the 2013 tally is proof of the same. While Vaidya polled 37,319 votes, Shabandri came second with 27,435. With Shabandri out of the race, it is said that this could benefit Vaidya as the tanzeem is likely to tell the Muslims to back him.

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

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