Special Correspondeent
Daijiworld Media Network

In the run-up to the Karnataka state assembly election which is due in May, 2013, daijiworld.com will bring some exclusive articles and interviews on probable candidates of all major parties. To begin with, we bring here an interview with Pramod Madhwaraj of Congress from Udupi assembly constituency.

Udupi, Feb 11: There is a long queue of needy people every day in front of his office seeking help either for education, health care needs or seeking financial help for having a roof over their head. A known philanthropist who has vowed to donate 40% of his profits from his fish-product companies for the welfare of the poor and needy, Pramod Madhwaraj, the young, handsome, suave and soft-spoken politician from the temple town of Udupi, is a rarity, an odd man out among most of today’s politicians who are known more for amassing wealth. Pramod is a giver than taker and that is what separates him from today’s crop of politicians.

While charity (which he has inherited from his late father M Madhwaraj) is one reason for Pramod’s popularity in Udupi he has other qualities or rather strengths that endear him to the people of Udupi. What is more, once again he is going to be the Congress candidate for Udupi assembly constituency in the forthcoming assembly elections. Udupi district has been the traditional stronghold of BJP.and the Congress under the leadership of Pramod Madhwaraj is bent upon wresting the seat held by the BJP. Ask about his chances of winning the Udupi seat and Pramod radiates confidence that comes only with the sure-fire chance of a guaranteed win, even before the election dates are announced.

Cheerful Mood in Pramod’s Camp 

Yes, assembly elections in Karnataka are once again round the corner and all political parties in the state are gearing up for the impending polls. In some constituencies aspiring candidates have begun their door to door canvassing to get the early-start advantage over their rivals. In Udupi assembly constituency, which has been the bastion of the BJP for long, entrepreneur and youth leader of the Congress, Pramodh Madhwaraj is going to be Congress candidate and he has begun his campaign much ahead of his close rival the BJP.

The mood in Pramod Madhwaraj’s camp is quite buoyant this time around as this young leader is sensing victory here in BJP’s citadel. Such upbeat mood is not without reason. Even Congress’s main rival the BJP has conceded, if not overtly, that Udupi is going to slip out of their hands in the coming elections.

Young and charming Pramod Madhwaraj, who is also the Udupi Block Congress President, exudes confidence about his victory. His personality is such that he is capable of inspiring the entire rank and file of his party to rally behind him. Soft spoken but clear headed and intelligent, Pramod has a worldly charm that can fascinate both the common people, young and old and the intelligentsia alike. Daijiworld.com met him recently to elicit his response to the prevailing election mood in Udupi assembly constituency and the entire district, he sounded confident of a clear win, something which the Congress party was not able to even dream of in the earlier elections.

Sure Candidature

Pramod says his is the single name proposed for the coming elections by the Udupi Block Congress when the party observers came to Udupi recently, which means his candidature is established. According to some inside information BJP is not going to field sitting MLA Raghupathi Bhat and there is all probability of district BJP President Uday Kumar Shetty getting the party ticket.

In Udupi constituency it is going to be a straight fight between Congress and BJP and Pramod is confident of his victory on his own strength rather than bank on the anti-incumbency factor. “Last time I lost the last election by a narrow margin of 2479 votes. The impression and the feedback which I have received during my campaigning recently is that our organizational set up was weak in the last elections. We have tried to address these issues and have begun our campaign in advance. It is not just in Udupi but in entire Karnataka Congress is going to make a grand come back”, he divulges.

Pramod believes that his strengths rather than the failures or weaknesses of his rivals that would ensure his victory. As a philanthropist, Pramod Madhwaraj has been a source of support for the poor and the needy who have been seeking his help for education, healthcare and construction of house.

He has been active in solving the drinking water problem faced by Udupi district and has been trying to find a permanent solution to the perennial problem. About his preparations for the next elections he candidly says “I don’t have to prepare for elections. I only serve the people and serving the people is an indirect way of preparing for elections”.

It is almost six months since Congress begun his campaign in Udupi. Pramod has already visited 4200 houses as part of his campaign. The Congress has held seven huge functions in the coastal districts of Mangalore and Udupi and four more programmes are in the pipeline. Recently the Congress had organized a four-day long padyatra from Ullal to Malpe and prior to the conclusion a massive bike rally was organized in Udupi under the leadership of Pramod. There is a lot of buzz in favour of the Congress in Udupi.

This clearly shows that the Congress has begun its work at the grass root level while the BJP is still grappling to put its house in order.

Sensing that the public mood is in its favour the Congress under the leadership of Pramod has adopted an aggressive strategy in its poll campaign. Known for his calm demeanor Pramod says “Aggressiveness works when the trend is in favor of the aggressor. The prevailing trend in our favour has made us aggressive”. But Pramod is certain that his will be a positive campaign dealing with issues concerning the welfare of the people of Udupi.


Priority for Development

The development of Udupi tops the priority list of Pramod Madhwaraj. He has prepared a vision document 2025 to make Udupi a model city in the next 13 years. He also wants to ensure the reopening of the Brahmavar Sugar Factory, develop tourism in a big way and also create conducive atmosphere for IT and ITES companies in the district so that youngsters don’t have to go out in search of better prospects. Improving the drainage system in five villages coming under the Udupi Municipal Corporation also tops the list of his priorities. Providing drinking water is also another challenging task because the city has to get water from Varahi to meet the shortage of drinking water faced by his constituency. .

Pramod’s robust confidence stems not only from his own capabilities but also from various other developments in the state in general and Udupi in particular. It must be remembered here that the BJP had won seven out of the eight assembly segments in Udupi district in 2008, which demonstrated the supremacy of the party in this temple town. Apart from BJP’s maladministration in the state and all drama witnessed in these five years BJP sitting MLA Raghupathi Bhat’s misdemeanors (including the death of his wife Padmapriya under mysterious circumstances) have put the BJP on the defensive. He is also believed to be highly corrupt and even BJP functionaries are perplexed the source of his huge wealth amassed over the last five years. The death of BJP-RSS stalwart Dr V S Acharya has also rendered a severe blow to the rank and file of BJP in Udupi. .

Pramod believes “It is the mood of the people that gives momentum to any poll campaign. Traditional BJP voters, majority of them RSS sympathizers, are disheartened by the kind of comedy they witnessed in the last five years in the name of governance. People are also questioning the enormous increase in the wealth of the sitting MLA of Udupi. In 2004 he declared his monthly income as Rs. 25,000 and he is now buying property involving huge money worth crores. There is a BJP municipal councilor in Udupi who is also buying property worth crores. People are questioning this and are thoroughly dispirited”.

To Lead by Example 

Being a youth leader is in itself an advantage for Pramod Madhwaraj who at 44 is a seasoned politician with nearly two decades of experience. Soon after his engineering education at KREC Surathakal politics beckoned him. He served as the vice President of D K District NSUI and as Secretary of state Youth Congress. He was elected as a youngest president of Dakshina Kannada Mogaveera Mahajana Sangh, the apex body of fishermen at a young age of 28. Pramod has served the fishermen community with great zeal and was instrumental in increasing the diesel subsidy of the state for fishers from Rs. 50 lacks to Rs. 45 crores.

But what about the sizeable number of young voters who are reluctant to vote in the elections? Pramod says his party has focused its attention on the segment. “We have enrolled about 8000 youth of the total 12000 youth voters enrolled in the last six months. Our party workers have evinced keen interest in convincing them that they cannot stay away from the electorate and then complain about neglecting their interests”, he points out.

Ask him why people should elect him and he says “We will ensure that the rampant corruption prevailing at the local level is brought down drastically. We also want to set up a 24-hour helpline so that people know whom to contact when they have some problem”. Since corruption has percolated down to every aspect of our daily life Pramod says he will stay honest come what may. “When people at the helm stay honest there is possibility of others towing the same line. It is contagious” he argues.

Over the years he has come out of his mother Manorama Madhwaraj’s shadow to emerge as a leader in his own right. His mother has recently rejoined the BJP but that has not affected their relationship. Manorama was a BJP MP from Udupi constituency and had quit the party only to rejoin it. . “I don’t discuss politics with her. We speak everything other than politics and hence politics does not come in the way of our relationship”, he explains.

Pramod Madhwaraj is on a roll. The public who are familiar with this youth leader, his benevolence, clean image, social concern and vision for the all round growth progress of Udupi, are sure to rally behind him in the coming elections.

Watch Video

Video streaming by Ustream