Uttara Kannada Lok Sabha constituency: Serene region witnesses a high-pitched battle between Hindutva and guarantees

The constituency that has vast forest cover besides housing nuclear and hydroelectric stations suffers from unemployment and lack of development work

May 01, 2024 10:34 pm | Updated May 02, 2024 12:33 pm IST - KARWAR (Uttara Kannada district)

Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri, BJP candidate

Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri, BJP candidate | Photo Credit: K. MURALI KUMAR

The serene Uttara Kannada Lok Sabha constituency carries a somewhat contrasting image politically because of the aggressive and inflammatory remarks of its incumbent MP Anantkumar Hegde.

The unique character of this constituency — that has a high percentage of forest cover and rich biodiversity while also housing the Kaiga nuclear power station and prominent hydel generating stations — has been relegated to the background in the din over controversial remarks and counter-offensives by political opponents. Perhaps this explains the reason for the backwardness of this constituency despite having nature’s bounty in terms of rivers as well as famous tourism destinations. The feeling among local residents is that their sacrifice of giving up land for major projects in the interest of the State has not been rewarded well.

This time the BJP has picked the former Karnataka Assembly Speaker Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri, known as a sober face of the Hindutva ideology, over the Hindutva hardliner and six-time MP Anantkumar Hegde as its candidate. This is perhaps to increase its reach among different cross sections of the constituency.

Mr. Kageri, a six-time MLA and a former Minister who had lost the previous Assembly election, is facing a high-voltage contest from Anjali Nimbalkar of the Congress, an one-time MLA who too lost the previous Assembly polls.

This Lok Sabha seat comprises Sirsi, Yellapur, Kumta, Haliyal, Karwar, and Bhatkal Assembly segments of Uttara Kannada district and Khanapur and Kittur Assembly segments of Belagavi district. While five of these Assembly segments are represented by the Congress, three are being held by the BJP.

Dr. Nimbalkar, who hails from Khanapur, is fighting to shrug off the image of being an “outsider” in Uttara Kannada district by ensuring that veteran Congress leader and localite R.V. Deshpande is part of her campaign.

The BJP got Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself to address a convention here to bolster the campaign of Mr. Kageri.

The Congress is trying to use its guarantee schemes that are popular with the lower middle class and poor to woo the voters. On its part, the BJP is trying to counter the guarantees through the nationalist narrative of the country’s security.

Sulking Hegde and Hebbar

However, Mr. Hegde has not turned up for the BJP’s campaign while the party’s MLA for Yellapur Shivaram Hebbar too has maintained a distance from the BJP after his son joined the Congress recently. Both Mr. Hegde and Mr. Hebbar even skipped the Prime Minister’s event in Sirsi. The Congress too is not devoid of such problems as its unit here is not homogenous.

Anjali Nimbalkar, Congress candidate

Anjali Nimbalkar, Congress candidate | Photo Credit: P.K. Badiger

Unemployment is one of the major problems here due to the lack of any major industrial units. While this is being blamed on the lack of development in the form of major infrastructure development, political leaders say that strict forest norms that prevent taking up development works in the vicinity of forest zones have come in the way of development. The constituency suffers from the major problem of people living in forest land for several generations not getting title deeds for their properties. The Uttara Kannada district does not even have a super speciality hospital while the major rail projects have been languishing for a long time.

Though the constituency has several prominent tourism destinations, including the caves and unique structures of Yaana, rivers such as the Kali and the Aghanashini, tiger reserve, beautiful beaches, and famous temples, not much effort has been made to develop infrastructure around them or promote them on global scene.

Both Congress and BJP have set their eyes on the OBC and SC/ST population which forms a sizeable chunk while the BJP is hoping to retain its support base among Lingayats and Brahmins who too form a sizeable chunk.

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