Govind D. Belgaumkar

Nagaraj Shetty and Ramanath Rai are the main contenders

MANGALORE: Two former Ministers — B. Nagaraj Shetty of the BJP and B. Ramanath Rai of the Congress — are expected to lock horns in the prestigious Bantwal constituency in Dakshina Kannada.

Mr. Shetty was a member of the B.S. Yeddyurappa Ministry while Mr. Rai was in the Cabinets of M. Veerappa Moily and S.M. Krishna. Both functioned as Minister in charge of the district.

The delimitation exercise has changed the face of the constituency greatly — half of it has been taken away, but more than half of it consists of newly added areas. It has acquired a major chunk of the dissolved Vitla constituency and four villages from Puttur constituency. The candidates, however, see a clear chance for them.

Mr. Shetty has the credit of stopping the Rai juggernaut in the constituency in the 2004 elections. Mr. Rai, who lost by less than 6,000 votes, had won four times in a row previously. In the last 2004 elections, Mr. Shetty polled 50.21 per cent of the votes and Mr. Rai 44.79 per cent.

Home turf

Both the former Ministers contend that the delimitation exercise would help them. Mr. Shetty’s calculation is that he has some 5,000-vote advantage because of the changes, Mr. Rai points out that the newly added areas include Kallige, where he stays. He says that the goodwill of people will see him through. He points out that the Congress had won two of the three zilla panchayat seats in the newly added areas.

Traditionally, the constituency has been a Congress bastion. With Mr. Shetty’s win in 2004, the BJP regained it after a gap of 21 years. N. Shiva Rao of the party had won it in 1983. The former Minister B.A. Mohideen had won the seat in 1978 as a Congress candidate.

The segment has 86,193 men and 85,462 women voters.

One of the problems farmers of Bantwal constituency face is shortage of water during summer. The administration has been preventing them from pumping water from the Nethravati, forcing them to stage protests.

The people of Bantwal town have been fighting for an underground drainage system, but it has remained a dream for them.

Shakuntala T. Shetty, who has been denied the party ticket from Puttur constituency from where she won last time, had lost the elections from this constituency in 1999 and 1994. Her migration to Puttur constituency had brought her victory. She has announced that she will contest as an Independent candidate from Puttur this time.

Also, A. Rukmayya Poojary, who recently joined the BJP, too was unsuccessful in the 1978 elections from here. He too had to migrate to Vitla, which he represented thrice thereafter.