By Srinivasan Nandagopal
Mangalore, April 23, 2014: It could quite easily be termed as “Mother of all Battles” which Dakshina Kannada witnessed on the electoral pollscape since 1952. A traditional congress bastion which was destroyed in 1991 with tri-colour replaced by saffron, Dakshina Kannada is in for the closest ever fight this time around. It is also probably for the first time that both the camps of the major parties are confident of sending their representative to Delhi.
Nalin Kumar Kateel(BJP), B Janardhana Poojary (Congress), M R Vasudeva (AAP), Hanaif Khan Kodaje (SDPI)
From questioning politicians rather nastily to being questioned, it has been a turn-around for a political novice like me to sit back and recount the moments of electioneering that took new dimensions this time. No stone went unturned by all contending parties to make full use of the space that they had at their disposition, may it be the field or the cyber space. As the field war intensified with leaders, volunteers and candidates sweating it out in the scorching sun, so was the virtual war of words through the social media in the virtual world.
While the visit of Modi and Rahul provided platforms for the show of strength of the major political outfits, the visit of Yogendra Yadav enthused the band of volunteers of the newly formed party of the common man. Each time, Mangalore welcomed the national leaders with pride and a sense of belongingness as the war only got bitter. The personal referrals to Modi by Congress Candidate only added fuel to the highly volatile atmosphere.
This election to the Dakshina Kannada constituency, the second after delimitation, is being seen with curiosity as seven time MP (Four times in LS and three terms in RS) B Janardhan Poojary appealed to voters as his final chance to represent the people of the district and on the other hand, the BJP camp strongly pushes its case in the name of Modi and not the individual who would represent the district (the candidate Nalin Kumar Kateel). It was right here that national BJP functionary Subramanyam Swamy had loudly appealed to voters to “Vote for BJP even if a Donkey if fielded”. The inference of the statement is evident.
Interesting is the fact that there is considerable anxiety as to how the Aam Aadmi Party will perform here. Facing its first electoral battle, the Kejriwal led political experiment has surely made its presence felt among the masses, especially among the new voters as well as the urbanites. It is also pertinent to mentioned that the response the party and its candidate former Airport Director, M R Vasudeva received from people in villages of Bantwal, Belthangady and Sullia was quite encouraging. Since the party is in its trial run, it is only to be seen how much of vote share it would gain which will play a pivotal role in tilting the balance between Poojary and Kateel. Anyway, AAP has made it’s mark and is all set to consolidate itself to steadily grow up as a party to reckon with in the time to come.
While permutations and combinations are being worked out by the party analysts, what matters is the perception of voters of this highly literate district. With fourteen candidates in the fray including seven independents, the vote share of AAP and SDPI candidate Haneef Khan will surely play an important role in tilting the balance. The bulk CPI votes that Yadav Shetty will bag is a foregone conclusion and will not affect either the Congress nor the BJP. However, there is a psyche of sizeable voters who sympathise a non-congress and non-BJP candidate but do not wish to `waste’ their votes. This tendency is likely to give some more votes to the two major parties. Even the number of voters going with the seven independents (however meager they are), cannot be written off. NOTA does not seem to be having its role in this election at least and will remain as a concept for future.
Dakshina Kannada out rightly rejected the Saffron Brigade during the Assembly Elections almost a year ago. But going by the high voter turnout in what BJP claims as its strongholds, there is reason to believe that the trend may have changed. This is surely advantage BJP. Also, the strategy to put up banners, buntings and hoardings declaring Modi as PM, all over the district much before the polls were officially announced, may also work to BJP’s favour. But the confidence of Congress’ workers is also palpable with their own calculations based on caste and community wise voting patterns.
A slender margin of victory for BJP, Congress victory still not ruled out, appreciable vote share by AAP, SDPI’s role in tilting the balance, the regular votes of the communist and the `also ran’ independents, is my opinion (the journalist in me) of DK Elections 2014.
The writer is a former Senior Correspondent of The Times of India and presently Convener of Centre for Integrated Learning.