The coastal city of Udupi hit the headlines last year when a government pre-university college for girls turned down the demand of six Muslim girls to allow them to wear hijab or headscarf in classrooms. The vice-president of the college development committee, Yashpal Suvarna, who stood firmly with the president of the committee and incumbent BJP MLA K. Raghupathi Bhat in making the “dress code” mandatory in the college, is the BJP candidate in the Udupi Assembly constituency.
Incumbent denied ticket
Udupi is among the five constituencies in the coastal districts where the BJP denied the ticket to its incumbent MLAs.
There is a straight fight between the BJP and the Congress in the constituency. Mr. Suvarna, 44, who is a novice, is facing another new entrant Prasadraj Kanchan, 50, an automobile entrepreneur, of the Congress. If Mr. Suvarna is a diploma holder in IT, Mr. Kanchan holds an MBA degree. Both are from the Mogaveera (fishermen) community.
Mr. Suvarna is also president of the Dakshina Kannada and Udupi District Cooperative Fish Marketing Federation Ltd. and national general secretary of the BJP Backward Classes Morcha. Mr. Kanchan’s mother, Sarala Kanchan, had unsuccessfully contested on the Congress ticket from the erstwhile Brahmavara constituency in Udupi district in 1999. He was also the president of the Udupi Chamber of Commerce and Industry a decade ago.
Mr. Suvarna stoked a controversy by stating last year that India would impose a blanket ban on wearing the hijab in public places.
The Udupi Zilla Muslim Okkoota had strongly condemned his statement. “If the BJP as a national political party resorts to silence and indirectly accepts his statement, it is a worrying situation,” secretary of the Okkoota Ismail Hussain had said.
He had called the six students of the Government Pre-University College for Girls who had demanded that they be allowed to wear the hijab as “anti-nationals”, alleging that they were hand in glove with the now-banned Popular Front of India (PFI). Political analysts then had viewed his statements as preparing the ground for entering the Assembly election fray.
Though three-time BJP MLA Mr. Bhat was initially upset, shed tears over the party not fielding him for the fourth time and vented his anger against the party for not intimating him in advance not to contest, he later fell in line and has been involved in campaigning for Mr. Suvarna.
Interestingly, three members of a single family, the late Malpe Madhwaraj, his wife, Manorama Madhwaraj, and their son, Pramod Madhwaraj, have been elected from this constituency.
Of the nine victories of the Congress (including the victory of the Congress (I) candidate Manorama Madwaraj in 1978) in the constituency, members of the same family have won six times. Of them, Malpe Madhwaraj won in 1962, Ms. Manorama Madhwaraj won four times — in 1972, 1978, 1985, and 1989, and Mr. Pramod Madhwaraj won in 2013. Later Ms. Manorama Madhwaraj joined the BJP and won the 2004 Lok Sabha election from the then Udupi parliamentary constituency. Following in his mother’s footsteps, Mr. Pramod Madhwaraj joined the BJP last year. The mother and son both were Ministers in the erstwhile Congress governments.
It was late V.S. Acharya who opened the BJP account in the constituency in 1983.
A temple town
The constituency is famous for the Sri Krishna Mutt/Temple and the Ashta Mutts established by the exponent of the Dwaita philosophy Sri Madhwacharya, the enchanting Malpe beach, and reputed educational institutions in Manipal.