In what is expected to be a tight fight in Bantwal Assembly constituency, both candidates — one a six-time veteran, while the other a greenhorn hoping for anti-incumbency — are pulling out all the stops for every vote.

The Hindu delves a little further, pitting Congress candidate B. Ramanath Rai and BJP candidate U. Rajesh Naik against each other in a series of development and political questions.

What are the problems you see in your constituency and how would you solve them if you get elected?

B. Ramanath Rai: Despite the BJP government in the State, as an MLA, I have addressed many problems.

However, a permanent solution to the drinking water crisis is yet to be achieved.

The problem can be addressed within the next five years with the implementation of the Bahugrama Yojane, where six schemes – coming to a cost of Rs. 124 crore – will allow the lifting of water from rivers and streams.

U. Rajesh Naik: There has been a lot of development in the constituency because of the BJP government, which has sanctioned many projects. Though water supply, road laying and power situation has improved, I will ensure the situation is bettered even in rural areas.

Will the Hindutva issue have an impact on the polls?

Rai: Communalism is not a problem here. People have rejected the ideology, and realised that Hindutva and communal policing are only for personal and financial gain.

Naik: Communalism is not an issue, and communal harmony will be one of the assurances I will keep.

Will Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) or Karnataka Janata Party (KJP) affect the number of votes you poll?

Rai: SDPI has a support base, mostly in the Vittal region.

But, the last election around, the candidate they had supported got only 6,000 votes. Voters are smart, and they will know that voting for SDPI is a vote wasted.

They cannot win, but can steal votes from the Congress and let the BJP win.

And as there is an anti-BJP wave, voters will know about this.

Naik: We are not looking at calculations like that. We want to win on our strength, and not because the SDPI removed votes from the Congress. Neither the KJP nor the SDPI has a big enough voter base to affect us.

This is a contest between the Congress and the BJP.

If you get elected, how do you see Bantwal constituency transforming in five years?

Rai: All roads will be concretised or tarred, while water problems will have a solution in the Bahugrama Yojane scheme.

A proper bus stand at B.C. Road is necessary, and I will find land so that the bus stand could be constructed.

Naik: Rural areas shall be better connected, with fewer water problems, and housing for the farmers. We will continue the development projects that have been initiated.

As an MLA, what kind of bills or policies will you push for in the Legislative Assembly?

Rai: I will support the bills tabled by the Congress.

Naik: Since the BJP has chosen me as a candidate, I will support the bills that are tabled by my party.

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