Mangaluru, May 05, 2018: Bantwal (Dakshina Kannada district): Candidates-wise, the 2013 and the upcoming 2018 elections in the communally-sensitive Bantwal remain the same. The fight is between the ‘coastal giant’ and six-time MLA B Ramanath Rai (Congress), and agriculturist-turned-political novice Rajesh Naik (BJP).
Though there were others — SDPI, JD(S), RPI and KJP — in the fray, they hardly mattered. This time too, there are a few others including Balakrishna Poojary (Lok Awaz Dal), Shameer (MEP) and Ibrahim Kailar (Ind).
While Shameer has filed his nomination from the prison, JD(S), JD(U), CPM, CPI have not fielded any candidate. SDPI candidate has withdrawn his nomination, the development which BJP leaders were quick to term a ‘nikah’ between the SDPI and the Congress. However, Rai seems to be least bothered about the comments as he is confident about his works and rapport with the voters.
“People have seen me for the past 40 years — right from heading PLD bank to youth Congress, block and district Congress, and being KPCC secretary/general secretary, MLA and even as a minister. People know what I am,” Rai said.
Stating that he has already covered 80% of the booths (out of 290) in his constituency, Rai said a majority of taluk panchayat (18 out of 23) and zilla panchayat seats (four out of six) coming under the Bantwal constituency are dominated by the Congress. Rai rued that RSS had been indulging in a hate campaign in his constituency.
Rajesh Naik (BJP) too is confident of a victory. “Though people did not know me during the 2013 elections, I received 63,815 votes,” he said, adding that his rapport with the people of the constituency that he had developed over the past four years would help him win the seat.
While listing out a number of issues in the constituency, including the law and order problem, Naik said he would give top priority to peace.
Interestingly, both Ramanath Rai and Rajesh Naik did not blame each other. While Naik said Rai could have done much more in the past 30 years, including developing tourist spots along the banks of River Nethravathi, Rai claimed he has done his best to develop his constituency.
AICC president Rahul Gandhi and BJP national president Amit Shah among others have already campaigned in Bantwal.
Perhaps, for the first time in the last 40 years (eight elections), Ramanath Rai’s wife Dhanabhagya is publicly campaigning for Rai.
RSS leader Kalladka Prabhakar Bhat too, for the first time, is openly campaigning.