Election watch: JD(S) - third force that has everything to gain
Daijiworld Media Network - Mangalore
Mangalolre, Mar 5: Just a few months back Mangalore unit of JD(S) resembled a house on turmoil with internal conflicts coming out in the open in full public glare. Loyal party workers seem to have opposed the entry of import of heavyweights like Nagaraj Shetty of BJP into the party fold. But now it looks as though there is a lull after the storm as the party has fielded 48 candidates out of the 60 wards for the ensuing elections to Mangalore City Corporation. JD(S) could just open its account in the civic polls in 2007 when its candidate Abdul Aziz managed to win the elections.
M G Hegde, state Secretary of JD(S) who is in charge of the civic polls in Mangalore says that JD(S) is confident of winning 20 seats in the ensuring elections. “Mangalore City Corporation has seen more than two decades of Congress rule and they have also given an opportunity to the BJP for five years. Now they want to give an opportunity for JD(S) and we are hopeful of getting more than 20 seats”, says a confident M G Hegde.
However, it is easier said than done considering that both Congress and the BJP have grass root support with committed workers and that has been their strength when it comes to elections. It is not easy to break into the strong fortress and make a foray.
Commenting on the internal conflict the party went through M G Hegde says it is natural for any political party to go through such a stage when there is a huge influx. Now the party workers have accepted the reality and everything is settled.
But the JD(S) has come in for sharp criticism with many questioning its self-proclaimed secular credentials when the party welcomed Mohan Padil of home stay attack fame into its fold after the BJP denied ticket to him. After the inclusion of Mahendra Kumar of pub attack fame the inclusion of Mohan Padil into the party fold has come in for sharp criticism. The party, however, feels that it is only local issues that matter in civic polls and whoever is able to respond to the people’s needs and requirements will be able to score over their rivals.
The JD(S) has really played its cards well by fielding as many as 10 Christians and 9 Muslim candidates out of the 48 seats it is contesting. As a result most of the wards are facing a triangular contest with JD(S) as the third force and there is a fear that the party may eat into the Congress votes. There is an element of truth here because in all the 10 seats given to Christians the party has fielded Christian candidates and this is causing jitters among party functionaries who fear that in their attempt to fight it out against each other they might indirectly help their bitter opponents to win.
However, it is evident that the party has chosen the candidates in haste without assessing their capabilities. Some of the candidates of the party in the fray are so ignorant that they do not know who their opponents are let alone the issues concerning the ward. When daijiworld contacted Janet Jathana the party’s candidate from ward no. 55, Attavar, it was her husband who volunteered to talk even when we insisted that we want to talk to the candidate. Finally when we asked her who her major opponents were or how many candidates are contesting from her ward, we could even hear her husband prompting her to tell that she does not know.
Daijiworld spoke to some of the party’s candidates who were busy on the last day of the campaign to know their views about elections, their opponents and the general issues affecting their respective wards.
Aziz Hussain: Ward no 43 (Kudroli)
Aziz Hussain is the star candidate of JD(S) being the only one who helped the party to open its account in 2007. What has added colour to the election in this ward is that Aziz is facing his own brother Anwar Reeko (Hussain) who is contesting as a BJP candidate from this constituency.
As a sitting corporator Aziz is locked in a four-cornered contest and all the four candidates happen to be Muslims. Abdul Aziz is confident that he will win by a wider margin than what he had achieved earlier. The Congress has played safe by fielding Shamsuddin and Abdul Pattar is pitted as BSR congress candidate. Aziz firmly says “this ward is like my fortress and I am sure that nobody can come inside it easily. I have secured my fortress with lot of good work to the people of the ward”.
Aziz says there is no bad blood between him and his brother but their relationship is just so so. In the same breath he adds that “none of our family votes would go to anyone else other than me. They may not have any bad feelings about the person but minorities especially ladies are scared about the party the person represents and they may not vote for the candidate”.
Srinivas Alva: Ward No 56 (Mangaladevi)
Srinivas Alva is contesting as a JD(S) candidate for the second time though in the 2007 elections he was a last-minute contestant and could not give a tough fight to his opponent Premanand Shetty of BJP, who is the sitting corporator. Srinivas who was in the BJP for nearly 30 years had quit the party in exasperation opposing the candidature of Premanand Shetty in the last election. “Though I contested the elections I was not mentally prepared to fight. I contested just for namesake and was not happy about my performance. But this time I have worked hard and have put in lot of efforts”, declares Srinivas Alva.
Srinivas is engaged in a three-cornered contest in Mangaladevi. Apart from BJP’s Premananda Shetty, there is also Congress candidate Suresh Shetty and all the three candidates in the fray belong to the Bunt community. Premananda Shetty is a three time corporator and is contesting as a BJP candidate for the fourth time. It is believed that loyal Congress workers of the ward are not happy with the Congress party candidature who believed to have got the ticket at the cost of other loyal workers and hence may not work for the party candidate.
His chances of winning depend on how well and effectively he is able to highlight the failures of his opponent and project himself as a suitable alternative.
Alwyn Pinto: Ward no 37 (Maroli)
Alwyn Pinto, 43, is the party’s candidates from Maroli where he is taking on his opponent the veteran James D Souza, the sitting corporator. James D Souza who was elected from BJP in 2007 switched over to Congress but is contesting as an independent as the Congress denied him the ticket. In this atmosphere Alwyn feels that the situation is favourable to him in the ward where the people are looking for a youthful face to work for their betterment.
Alwyn who is into catering has been in local politics for more than ten years and he even contested as JD(S) candidate from Bendoor earlier. In Maroli he is locked in a five-cornered contest facing Keshava of Congress, Jagadeesh Shenoy of BJP, Irine D Silva BSR-independent and James D Souza, who is also an independent. Alwyn says “my chances of winning are brighter because people of the ward have given an opportunity for both the Congress and the BJP and they know the futility of voting them again. They are looking for a change and I want to be the change people are looking for”.
Alwyn has been in the social service field rendering whatever help he could do. He was instrumental in holding mass first communion, helping orphanages, old age homes and other organizations in whatever little capacity he could do. He says that he was inspired to join the election bandwagon due to his exposure to the problems faced by people during his social service activities.
Though he has focused on a positive campaign making voters understand the need to vote for them he says his main opponent James D Souza stands exposed by switching parties randomly. Being a young face in municipal elections he says he has been able to draw the attention of youngsters, who he says have responded to him positively. Alwyn says he is not worried about the split in his community votes among the three. “Voters are smart to know what is good for them and they will use their discretion judiciously”, he points out.
Clita Noronha: Ward No. 39 (Falnir)
Falnir ward has four candidates in the fray along with Jacintha Vijaya Alfred of the Congress as the sitting corporator. BJP has fielded Indira Ravindra. Mary Gibson is BSR Congress candidate and Clita Noronha is the JD(S) candidate. The ward has about 6000 voters.
Clita, 45, was a reluctant to get into politics but once she has jumped into the bandwagon she has been working overtime to reach out to the people and persuade them to vote for her. She says “the ward people are very unhappy with the sitting corporator of the area and persuaded me to contest for the elections and I had to bow down to their wishes”. Clita wanted to fight on Congress ticket as there was strong discontent brewing against the sitting corporator. The common complaint among the ward people was that whenever there was some issue concerning the ward the sitting corporator did not attend and in some instances it was her who husband used to attend. It is also said that some ladies of the area were waiting eagerly for an opportunity to confront the corporator during the campaign.
Despite the negative feedback, Clita says Congress decided to stick on with the existing candidate. Clita’s supporters had no other choice but to make her contest on JD(S) ticket and fight it out in the elections. Clita might be new to politics but she says she has been very active in her parish activities and her experience as the ‘gurkar’ of the ward she is well versed with the problems faced by the people. Now that she has jumped into the election scene she has decided to swim rather than sink. She says she was ‘persuaded’ to withdraw in favour of the Congress candidate through a third party but she says she did not budge. “I am not the one to buckle to the pressure tactics of anyone. The people of my ward have faith in me and that is what keeps me going”, she declares.
On the Election Trail