Harsha Raj Gatty
Mangaluru, Mar 20: In the third leg of his campaign in Karnataka and first since being elected as the party President, Rahul Gandhi will kick-start the party campaign in Dakshina Kannada on Tuesday. The district that has given the Chief Minister Siddaramaiah cabinet with three ministers including B Ramanath Rai, U T Khader and Abhayachandra Jain will play a crucial role in determining the fate of the party in 2018 elections.
In 2013 polls, by voting Congress to power in seven out of eight assembly constituencies, the district had ousted the then controversy riddled BJP government. But over the past five years, the opposition led by BJP has been leaving no-stone-unturned trying to re-emerge back in its Hindutva bastion. At the local campaign, the BJP leaders are already alleging Congress state government responsible for the murder of nearly 23 Hindu's during its five-year tenure, the figures which the ruling state government has rebutted.
Besides his public address at the Central ground in Mangaluru, Gandhi's intervention has been sought by the district leaders in dousing the in fight between the former Fisheries Minister and incumbent legislator Abhayachandra Jain and party's Chief whip Ivan D’Souza owing to their aspiration to contest from Moodbidri constituency - that is seen to put the party in poor light. Similarly, even in Puttur constituency, Congress MLA Shakuntala Shetty faces challenge from former Puttur block president Kavu Hemanath Shetty - which Gandhi is anticipated to put to rest.
While in constituencies such as Mangaluru (UT Khader) and Mangaluru South (J R Lobo), Belthangady (K Vasantha Bangera) the party is confident with its candidate’s performance. It is Mangaluru North MLA Moideen Bava's alleged inefficiency that will be taken into task by Rahul Gandhi.
Moreover, Rahul Gandhi is also expected to take the local Muslim community leaders into confidence of the party's support - who were recently miffed that despite being in majority at the Mangalore City Corporation (MCC) and repeated plea, the party decided to elect a non-Muslim as a Mayor. The District Headquarter - Mangaluru city till date has seen only two Mayors from the Muslim community in 2006 and 2012.
The Congress fears that similar to the previous edition of assembly and the general election - the party may lose a major chunk of Muslim vote share to Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) candidates.
In his tour to the neighbouring district, the 47-year old Gandhi will also try to plug the imminent departure of Udupi MLA Pramod Madhwaraj, who according to local sources is likely to join BJP. The leader recently was seen sporting his campaign without showcasing his Congress affiliation.
Besides his address at the Central Ground, the Congress Presidents itinerary includes visit to the temple churches and Dargah in the district.
The coastal district that has also given the party several national leaders such as Oscar Fernandes, Margret Alva, Manorama Madhwaraj, Veerappa Moily has a infamous repute of turning its back on the political parties at a drop of hat on being taken for granted.
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