In 2008, Palemar beat Bava by 14,000 votes

It’s the clash of the businessmen — a real estate developer versus an owner of a conglomerate – in the Mangalore North Assembly constituency. Stretching from Kodical to Surathkal and up till Kunjathbail, the constituency throws up a multitude of problems encompassing industrial, urban and agrarian issues.

The former Minister Krishna J. Palemar, a two-time MLA here, represents the BJP in the contest against Congress candidate B.A. Mohiuddin Bava. It is not for naught that the election is being understood by many as a battle of crorepatis: Mr. Palemar has declared assets of Rs. 35.21 crore and Mr. Bava Rs. 15.38 crore. The two had squared off in 2008, when Mr. Palemar won by a margin of over 14,000 votes.

This time around, it remains to be seen if anti-incumbency and the allegations against him will play a role.

While, many who talked to The Hindu credit Mr. Palemar for the improvement in water supply, there is significant blame for the increase in property tax by the Mangalore City Corporation and the delay in allocation of land to the homeless. “Why do they increase the property tax when facilities provided do not improve? This only cripples the poor,” said Kamalakshi, a homemaker in Surathkal.

Mangala and Ganesh Mangalore, both living in ramshackle thatched-roof housing in Bapujinagar, said they had given applications for regularisation of land three years ago. “It hasn’t been approved yet. Now there is talk of evicting us. Where do we go?” said Ms. Mangala.

While industrialisation has given many in Surathkal steady employment, there is also anger at the noticeable drop in air quality. “After 8 p.m., the smell is unbearable. Complaints about the pollution from MRPL and BASF have been ignored,” said Sujatha P. from Bala. In Jokatte, there is anger at the discharge of effluents into the Gurupura River.

In Dambel, resident Ganesh Shenoy said he was disappointed with the MLA for not having delivered on his promise to set up an underground drainage system in the area.

Another assurance that hasn’t materialised is the construction of the Surathkal market. Hazirabba, who sells garlands in a makeshift tent, said: “We don’t even have a toilet for the dozens of sellers here. During the rainy season, the whole area turns slushy, and water inundates our shops.”

Mr. Palemar said his campaign would focus on improvement in water and power supply, road condition, and increased students’ scholarships.

“It is rural areas that have benefited the most. 24 hours water supply will be possible after the completion of Thumbe vented dam,” he said.

Making an effort to remove the businessman tag – and to position himself to attack Mr. Palemar on his “developer” credentials – by claiming to have “retired” from business, Mr. Bava said his focus is to project his secular ideology, and ‘Mangalore United’ (Karnataka Premier League cricket team) that showed “multi-cultural diversity” of the region.

“There is a Congress wave, and my social work has boosted my image,” he said, when asked about his chances.

Apart from this, he hoped to pick on tax, water tariff hikes by the MCC during five years of BJP-rule. When asked if he would rake the issue of the watching of porn Legislative Assembly, where Mr. Palemar was an accused, Mr. Bava said: “It is shameful and embarrassing, and voters will remember this episode.” However, BJP campaigners said there was “widespread awareness” that Mr. Palemar was eventually acquitted in the scandal, and this would not affect his chances.

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