Prestige battle for saffron party in Karkala

An interesting battle is on the cards in the Karkala Assembly Constituency in Udupi district. Karkala is well-known for giving a Chief Minister to the State — M. Veerappa Moily.

Mr. Moily, who is now the Union Petroleum Minister, represented Karkala by winning six times in a row in the 1972, 1978, 1983, 1985, 1989, and 1994 Assembly elections.

The Karkala Assembly constituency is located at the foothills of the Western Ghats. The constituency also has naxal-affected areas. Of the 12 Assembly elections held in the Constituency since 1957, the Congress has won nine times. In the 1999 Assembly elections, Mr. Moily’s protégé Gopal Bhandary won by a huge margin of 28,857 votes by defeating K.P. Shenoy of the BJP. The BJP returned the favour when its candidate and the then State convener of Bajrang Dal V. Sunil Kumar defeated Mr. Bhandary by a margin of 9,769 votes in the 2004 Assembly elections. But the Congress had its sweet revenge, when Mr. Bhandary defeated Mr. Kumar by a narrow margin of 1,537 votes in a straight fight in the 2008 Assembly elections.

Old rivals – Mr. Bhandary and Mr. Kumar will clash for the third time as both have been re-nominated by their respective parties. Both are good orators. While Mr. Kumar’s speeches are sharp, Mr. Bhandary’s are laced with humour.

The stakes are high for both the parties. For the BJP because Mr. Kumar is now the president of State unit of BJP Yuva Morcha, and for the Congress because Karkala is Mr. Moily’s home turf. A tough fight between the Congress and the BJP is expected here.

In the March 2012 by-election to the Udupi-Chikmagalur parliamentary constituency, Mr. Kumar, who was the BJP candidate in the by-poll, led in the Karkala Assembly segment by a margin of 1,312 votes over the Congress candidate K. Jayaprakash Hegde (who won the by-election).

Mr. Kumar said that he was highlighting the achievements of the BJP government in the last five years and his achievements as BJP MLA from 2004 to 2008. He was also focusing on the failures of Mr. Bhandary as MLA, he said.

Mr. Bhandary said that he had implemented developmental projects of Rs. 367 crore in the constituency in the last five years. Besides highlighting his achievements, he was also focusing on the corruption and infighting during the five-year of BJP rule in the State in his campaign, he said.

George D’ Almeida, a petty shop owner in Karkala, said that though Mr. Bhandary responded well to problems, he did not get the required amount of cooperation from the officials as he was an Opposition MLA, he said.

Gopalakrishna P., who works in a medical store, said that the widening of the main road in Karkala town had not been completed though the work was started two years ago. The town also lacked proper drainage facility, he said.

Bharat Poojary, autorickshaw driver, said that though Karkala had many tourist spots, its tourism potential had not been fully tapped. Ibrahim, another autorickshaw driver, said that proper efforts had not been made to remove silt from the Anekere lake located in Karkala town.

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