Abhijith N Kolpe
Daijiworld Media Network - Bantwal
Mangaluru May 10: Bantwal has repeatedly been in the news for various reasons. The constituency was in the limelight when prohibitory orders under section 144 were enforced for a record 50 days. Denial of midday meal to Kalladka and Punacha school students out of Kollur temple funds, and SDPI's candidate's withdrawal from the fray on the verge of election are some of the issues for which Bantwal has become a talking point.
Dakshina Kannada district In charge minister, B Ramanath Rai, is a well-known face in this constituency since 1985. On the other hand, BJP has been chalking out various strategies to defeat Ramanath Rai, but Congress has been claiming that this election is between development and malicious propaganda and the party leaders and workers are not leaving any stone unturned while trying hard to make sure that Ramanath Rai will win for a record seventh time.
Congress and BJP have been the main contenders here in all previous elections while other parties have not made much impact so far in this constituency. Except Sullia, BJP had difficulty in choosing the right candidate for the remaining seven assembly constituencies in Dakshina Kannada district this time.
BJP has opted to pit Rajesh Naik for the second time against Ramanath Rai. Naik had last contested the election here in 2013. Despite his loss then, Rajesh Naik did not lose hope and continued to work sincerely for the party which has resulted in him getting a ticket to contest again without having to work hard for it.
Confident of victory this time, Rajesh Naik noted that there has been BJP wave all over Bantwal. "Out of fear of loosing, Congress leaders have seen to it that SDPI and JD(S) do not field their candidates in Bantwal. BJP never depends on SDPI. Congress party is the one that has developed nexus with murderers," he observed. Rajesh Naik commands respect in the constituency for maintaining good relationship with the people from all communities and walks of life.
Rajesh Naik's opponent, Ramanath Rai, is a very strong candidate from Congress and is set to contest election for 8th time. Except in the year 2004 when Ramanath Rai lost to Nagaraja Shetty of BJP, Rai had registered victory in the remaining elections. So far in his political career, Ramanath Rai has functioned as excise minister, transport minister, port and fisheries minister, and environment minister. When Dr G Parameshwar resigned as home minister to work full time as Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee president, Ramanath Rai's name was in the forefront for the ministerial position vacated by Parameshwar and it was also rumoured that he had expressed his unwillingness to take over this responsibility.
Ramanath Rai being a veteran and seasoned politician is cent percent confident of pulling off another win. Despite being the homeground of RSS leader Kalladka Prabhakar Bhat, Rai has been able to maintain a steady grip on Bantwal. This time round, he claims BJP has been making a 'false propaganda' against him that he made a statement regarding Hindu votes. Rai was earlier criticised by the BJP for saying he was 'grateful' to Muslims for voting for him. But being a veteran of eight elections, Rai knows his way around such allegations and somehow manages to maintain his winning streak despite all the controversies. The question now is whether he would be able to repeat his performance this time too, in the face of what the BJP claims to be a 'Modi wave' that was absent in all the previous assembly elections.