All eyes will be on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rally to be held here on May 5 as it could upset the Congress’ poll strategy in Dakshina Kannada district, hit by communal polarisation. While the Congress is going all out to retain its hold on the coastal district of Karnataka, its candidates believe that the upcoming rally by Modi could influence voters in favour of the BJP and their calculations need to be reworked. To offset the impact of the rally, the Congress will look at ways of getting disgruntled party workers, unhappy about ticket distribution, on board, leaders said. Efforts will be made to intensify campaigns in the last few days, with door to door canvassing as well as mobilising support at the booth level, they said.
“There was not much impact of Modi’s rally during the last elections. Now, he is visiting as PM. I feel there would be an impact either way,” Congress’ candidate from Mangalore constituency and incumbent state food minister U T Khader told PTI in an interview. Modi’s rally would influence voters to some extent but not to the BJP’s expectation, he said.
“The impact will be 5 per cent plus or minus,” the Congress leader said. Khader, contesting for the fourth time, claimed that he has reined in communal clashes in his constituency but attacked the BJP for “trying to polarise the elections and playing the Hindutva card”. Confident of winning with a huge margin this election, too, Khader said, “There is no anti-incumbency in my constituency. If any sitting MLA loses, it is because of individual problems and not the party’s problem.”
During the 2013 election, Modi as Gujarat chief minister had campaigned in the district but the BJP could not secure more than one seat, while the Congress won seven seats. However, the BJP had put up an impressive show in 2008 when it came to power in the state. Bantwal, Mangaluru and Mangaluru North constituencies are known for communal tensions.
Congress candidate from Mangalore North Mohiuddin Bava said, “There is a Modi wave, I agree. But I am confident of winning. It is a big victory if a Muslim gets re-elected from a constituency that has only 20 per cent minorities.” Modi has a huge fan following in the district but it needs to be seen how much it will convert into votes in the May 12 elections, he added.
Bava, contesting for the third time, is fielded against BJP’s Bharath Shetty. However, Dakishna Kannada district in-charge and state forest minister Ramanath Pai, who is contesting for the eighth time from Bantwal, said, “There is no Modi wave at all.” “The way he speaks, it is below the status of a panchayati head,” he said and added that Modi has simply given false promises and not delivered anything and people by now are aware of his “capabilities”.
Political analysts believe that there will be a close fight between the BJP and Congress in the coastal district. The BJP, which is “banking on a Hindutva agenda, may win more seats if the party pacify its disgruntled leaders, who were not given tickets to contest the elections this time, they said. The Congress may have to rethink about the election strategy after Modi’s rally. The Prime Minister seem to be receiving a good response in Udupi and other places, the analysts added.