In large swathes of the city, Christians (mostly Catholic) and Muslims have a significant presence. In terms of voting preferences, the result has been that the victory of the Congress in 2013 (for the first time since 1989) was a record of sorts. This area has been a BJP bastion since 1994. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, however, BJP was able to cool the assembly election fever and Mangaluru was won by the party defeating the Congress.
Kishore Rai, the BJP’s Dakshina Kannada general secretary says: “In 2013, there was an anti-government wave which was why we lost 7 out of 8 seats in the district. But this time, we are looking to win all 8 seats. Sangh Parivar is very strong here. Since last year, vistaraks have been sent to every booth. The 19-point programme of Amit Shah
by involving booth pramukhs and panna pramukhs is being followed. We have been preparing for this election for the last one year.”
Coastal Karnataka contributes just 19 seats to the Karnataka Assembly out of 224. Yet, the region has contributed two chief ministers – Veerappa Moily and Sadananda Gowda. The contest in this region is not between BJP chief minister designate BS Yeddyurappa and Congress Chief Minister Siddaramaiah — it is between Narendra Modi and Siddaramaiah.
“This area has always been ahead of the curve: it benefited from education through Christian missionaries. It took the ball and ran. The people have always been entrepreneurial and there is an element of competition: ‘if he can do it why can’t I’. Business comes to people easily — otherwise why would a small region in the state — Mangaluru and Udupi — have given India five banks (Syndicate Bank (1925), Bank of Karnataka (1924), Canara Bank (1906), Vijaya Bank (1931) and Corporation Bank (1906)?’ says Dr MS Moodithaya, Pro Vice Chancellor of the Nitte University. KV Kamath is among the most famous and celebrated local boys.
Moodithaya says the contest in this area is not a contest of parties — it is a contest of leadership. He says somewhat cryptically that the region is poised for change. Locals say Siddaramaiah is populist. He listens to the voice of the poor and gives them what they are asking for – and such leaders are needed too. But Modi is aspirational. And there is much hanging on Modi’s visit to Coastal Karnataka on 5 May.