Congress has not won the Dakshina Kannada seat since 1991

The Congress, which won the Dakshina Kannada (Mangalore, before delimitation) Lok Sabha constituency for seven consecutive terms since 1962, has not tasted victory here in the last six elections (since 1991).

While the BJP, which retained the constituency with a convincing margin of about 45,000 votes in 2009, is going the whole hog to retain position, the Congress wants to regain it, hoping to redo the 2013 magic when it bagged about 90,000 more votes than the BJP in the Assembly elections.

The two previous elections presenting contradictory outlook may speak for the voters’ maturity in the district.

People of the district have maintained a unique cultural identity through Yakshagana and songs known as “pad-danas”. It is also the land of the Bearys — a Muslim sect with a unique language and culture. There are a large number of Konkani speaking people among both Hindus and Christians. Dakshina Kannada boasts the largest minority population in the State (22 per cent Muslims and 8.7 per cent Christians, according to the 2001 Census).

It also has the highest literacy rate (83 per cent against the State’s average of 66 per cent). Mangalore, along with Manipal in the neighbouring Udupi district, has emerged a major medical and educational destination.

The constituency is dominated by women. The district has 10.51 lakh women and 10.32 lakh men, according to the 2011 Census. Of the 15,30,071 voters as on January 31, 2014, 7,72,188 are women and 7,57,883 men.

Major demand

There has been a strong demand to study the carrying capacity of the district before implementing projects such as special economic zone and a mega petrochemical hub. In the district where coconut, arecanut and rubber are major crops, with paddy cultivation dwindling year after year, the State government’s plan to take away 24 tmcft water from the tributaries of the Netravati (under the Yettinahole project for supplying to the arid districts of central Karnataka) could emerge as an election issue as people perceive that the river — considered a lifeline of the district — will dry up.

It is no secret that Hindu right-wing groups have been very active in the constituency, with independent observers maintaining that it has been the Sangh parivar’s ‘Hindutva laboratory’ in South India to gain political power. They see the attacks on Christian prayers halls by Hindutva groups since 2009 and polarisation along communal lines in that light.

A string of vigilante attacks, including the 2009 pub attack and the 2012 homestay attack in Mangalore, have been the flashpoints of the aggressive stance the Hindutva forces have taken. Observers such as Rajaram Tolpady, associate professor in the Department of Political Science in Mangalore University, say that the BJP is aggressively propagating cultural nationalism but the Congress is “vulnerable to forms of Hindutva”. Mr. Tolpady warns that the “dangerous” religious or caste-based exclusivism could lead to a fragmented society where distribution of public assets would lead to conflicts and violence.

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