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Updated: March 12, 2013 14:05 IST

Hard work pays for Congress in Udupi

Special Correspondent
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Congress workers going on a victory lap in Udupi on Monday.
Congress workers going on a victory lap in Udupi on Monday.

Congress tastes victory in City Municipal Council after 45 years

Systematic and door-to-door campaigning and careful selection of candidates have helped the Congress cruise to victory in the elections to the Udupi City Municipal Council (CMC) after a gap of 45 years.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had been ruling the Udupi Town Municipal Council (TMC), which later became Udupi City Municipal Council (CMC) since 1968. Congress-backed Independent candidates were in power in the Udupi CMC from 1997 to 2001 Both the BJP and the Congress had then decided not to field candidates protesting against Udupi being upgraded from a TMC to a CMC.

The drubbing suffered by the BJP this time has proved that the voters had rejected the party’s tall claims about development. According to Surendranath Shetty, Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at MGM College, Udupi, though the BJP fought the CMC elections on the plank of development, the administration was plagued by indiscipline.

“It failed to give tickets to service-minded candidates. There was no collective leadership. Corruption charges faced by many in the BJP-led State government had a major impact on the minds of the voters. They did not like large sums of money being given to maths and temples,” he said.

Anti-BJP wave

The tide had been turning against the BJP for quite some time now. In the by-election for the Udupi-Chikmagalur parliamentary constituency held in March 2012, the Congress had won by a margin of 45,724 votes. But the Congress lead over the BJP in Udupi Assembly segment alone was 11,423 votes — the highest in the entire parliamentary constituency. This should have set alarm bells ringing in the BJP camp.

But the BJP leaders were overconfident that they will retain the Udupi CMC. K. Raghupati Bhat, MLA, who spearheaded the BJP campaign, had said that the BJP would get nearly 30 seats in the Udupi CMC.

In contrast, the Congress leaders were cautious in selecting candidates and resorted to a low-profile, but targeted campaigning. Pramod Madhwaraj, president of Udupi Block Congress Committee, who was in-charge of the Congress campaign, had given a realistic estimation of party’s tally. As it turned out, the Congress won 22 seats, two more than Mr. Madhwaraj’s estimation, and pushed BJP’s tally to 12 in the 35- member council .

‘Arrogance’

According to writer K. Phaniraj, the BJP focused only on development work such as widening of the roads which benefited only big businesses. There was a perception that the BJP had a truck with real estate businesses. It did not give attention to problems such as drinking water shortage and sanitation. “Lack of transparency coupled with arrogance did it in,” he said.

The Congress had a united leadership and relied on door-to-door campaigning. “They visited all the houses twice and this made a big difference. Confidence has returned to the Congress after its victory in the Udupi-Chikmagalur by-election last year,” Mr. Phaniraj said.

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