This is the feeling of many people, especially minorities, in towns and villages of Mangalore North constituency, where two giants - a real estate developer from BJP and an owner of a conglomerate from Congress are locked in a neck-and-neck fight.
Even though in the beginning of the race, it appeared that Mr Palemar will create history by easily winning for third time, now public opinion suggest that anti-incumbency wave will make Congress candidate B A Moideen Bava victorious unless other candidates including Muslim candidates of JD(S) and SDPI snatch traditional votes from Congress.
This constituency could be called as the gateway of Mangalore as it houses industrial giants such as MRPL-ONGC, BASF, MCF and premier educational institutes such as National Institute of Technology – Karnataka. This constituency also has the Mangalore Special Economic Zone, New Mangalore Port and is close to the Mangalore Airport. Due to its contribution to economic growth and its strategic placement, the constituency is always in limelight.
However, unfortunately the same constituency has been infamous for criminal activities alongside politically motivated communal activities for many years. A majority of common people in the region irrespective of caste, religion and gender hold their electoral representatives responsible for this pathetic situation.
Jaleel Beary, a trader in Suratkal, defines May 5 Assembly poll as an opportunity to end the monopoly of communal goons in his area, who according to him are well backed by the two-time MLA and former influential minister Krishna J Palemar. “We should not lose this opportunity to unseat person who is accused in many cases. If secular and anti-communal votes are divided once again, the Sangh Parivar goons will surely tighten their hold in the region,” he opines.
Besides peoples’ frustration about increasing communal and criminal activities in the society, there are many other allegations on this BJP leader. There is significant blame for the increase in property tax by the Mangalore City Corporation and the delay in allocation of land to the homeless. “Why do they increase the property tax when facilities provided do not improve? This only cripples the poor,” said a homemaker in Surathkal.
A couple with a small child living in ramshackle thatched-roof housing in Bapujinagar, said they had given applications for regularisation of land three years ago. “It hasn’t been approved yet. Now there is talk of evicting us. Where do we go?” they questioned.
While industrialisation has given many in Surathkal steady employment, there is also anger at the noticeable drop in air quality. “After 8 p.m., the smell is unbearable. Complaints about the pollution from MRPL and BASF have been ignored,” said Sujatha P. from Bala. In Jokatte, there is anger at the discharge of effluents into the Gurupura River.
In Dambel, resident Ganesh Shenoy said he was disappointed with the MLA for not having delivered on his promise to set up an underground drainage system in the area.
Another assurance that hasn’t materialised is the construction of the Surathkal market. Hazirabba, who sells garlands in a makeshift tent, said: “We don’t even have a toilet for the dozens of sellers here. During the rainy season, the whole area turns slushy, and water inundates our shops.”
Shakunthala, a BA student said, though she was a BJP supporter for many years, the attitude of incumbent MLA forced her to change her opinion. “Our MLA was one among those who desecrated the Temple of Democracy by watching porn clips during Assembly session. People should teach him a lesson,” she said.
Even though Mr Palemar had incurred the anger of common people through his anti-poor policies following his first victory in 2004, he had managed to defeat B A Moideen Bava by a margin of over 14,000 votes in 2008 too. According to experts, the communal sentiments and ‘divide and rule’ strategy had played a pivotal role in this result.
“He has not fulfilled any of his promises. People have lost faith in him. Hence, he is trying to defeat me through crooked politics,” says Mr Bava, who confidently says that if minority votes are not divided Mr Palemar will be defeated by a huge margin.
“There are nine candidates in the fray in my constituency including three Muslims. This is nothing but BJP’s divide and rule strategy. Besides approaching other small parties and independents, Mr Palemar has even succeeded in convincing senior JD(S) leaders to field a Muslim candidate from this constituency,” says Mr Bava adding that the people of his constituency might have already understood this conspiracy.
“There is a Congress wave, and my social work has boosted my image,” he said and pointed fingers at tainted candidates. This time it is not easy for Mr Palemar as all are aware that he has used his term to lobby for builders. The modification of Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP) has enraged people in the area. The porn-gate scandal has affected his image and shamed people for having him as their leader, he said.
Expressing much interest in politics by claiming to have ‘retired’ from business, Mr. Bava said his focus is to project his secular ideology, and ‘Mangalore United’ (Karnataka Premier League cricket team) that showed “multi-cultural diversity” of the region.
Apart from this, he hoped to pick on tax, water tariff hikes by the MCC during five years of BJP-rule.