DK contest evenly poised 63, 000 new voters can tilt the equation

As Dakshina Kannada goes to the polls, many appear to be looking for one answer – will the Modi factor work in the constituency?

It was the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, who kick-started the party’s campaign in the city even before the candidate Nalin Kumar Kateel’s name was announced in a rally at Nehru Maidan. The venue also witnessed a public rally by Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi to bolster the chances of party candidate B. Janardhana Poojary with the turnout comparatively smaller.

The BJP campaign managers did not waste any opportunity to seek votes to make Mr. Modi the Prime Minister and Mr. Poojary attempted to make light of it saying that the fight was between him and Mr. Modi. Not a day passed without either of the parties taking the name of the Gujarat Chief Minister.

The Sangh Parivar and its outfits, known to be more active in Dakshina Kannada than elsewhere, are believed to have explored every avenueto ensure Mr. Nalin’s re-election. The Congress, in order to counter it, has made the poll issue the alleged communalism of the BJP.

Yet, on the face of it, election this time seemed to be evenly poised. But then polls could go against all expectations and predictions. It remained to be seen what records the voters of Dakshina Kannada will create on Thursday. The district has about 63,000 new voters, who could help script a new chapter in the history of the constituency.

Talking of records, the margins of victories were narrowing down in Dakshina Kannada andcandidates could only hope to repeat the performance of 1971, when the Congress party nominee K.K. Shetty won almost two-third of the votes.

Mr. Shetty’s rival in that election C.M. Poonacha of the National Congress (O) had won only a quarter of the votes. The victory margin was 1.21 lakh. However, Mr. Poojary – who has won four times and lost as many times in the constituency – holds the record for the highest margin. He defeated his nearest rival Karamballi Sanjeeva Shettyof Janata Party 1980 by 1.29 lakh votes. But he could not beat the record of Mr. Shetty in terms of vote share. Mr. Poojary could get only a little less than 56 per cent. Mr. Poojary also holds the record losing by the lowest margin in the constituency.

The last time victory margin was more than 1 lakh was in 1984 when Mr. Poojary defeated K. Ram Bhat of the BJP. Thereafter the victory margin has been coming down in the district.

It reached the lowest level in 1998 when Mr. Poojary was defeated by then BJP candidate V. Dhananjaya Kumar (presently JDS candidate in Udupi-Chikmagalur constituency) by fewer than 7,000 votes.

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