At the Mangaluru City Constituency, three-time Congress MLA U T Khader will be contesting once again for the Karnataka Assembly polls (May 12, 2018). This time, the Bharatiya Janatha Party has mobilized all its resources to this so called communally sensitive constituency to ensure the victory of its candidate Santosh Kumar Rai Boliyar, who was a Zilla Panchayat member.
For two decades victory has eluded BJP in this constituency, whereas for the Congress it has been a safe-seat passing through the hands of late legislator U T Fareed to his protégé son U T Khader. Meanwhile, former Mangaluru Mayor K Ashraf, who recently quit the Congress party, is also set to give stiff contest on behalf of Janatha Dal (Secular) at the segment which has a sizable minority population.
The three candidates speak to coastaldisgest.com on the issues in the constituency and their plans to bring development.
CD: What are the unsolved issues in the Mangaluru City Constituency? How would you address the same if you get elected?
Khader: My major plan is to resolve water shortage issue in the constituency. Though there is water, it is not sufficient. Providing uninterrupted water supply is my main goal. For this a bridge cum barrage will be built from Harekala to Adyar village at a cost of Rs. 174 crore. This will help increase water level by 6 tmc and same will be provided to people after installing pipelines. It has already been approved in the budget.
Secondly, there are many unskilled labourers in my constituency and I plan to introduce special scheme under Koushalya Bhagya so that they will be profitably employed.
My constituency has Mangalore University as well as many other colleges. I want to develop the road into an educational hub connectivity road.
Santosh: None of the issues have been solved in this constituency. Sea erosion and drinking water is still a problem for many households. The constituency lacks a government hospital, Industrial Training Institute (ITI) and a fire department. I am going to ensure that the constituency has basic centers and emergency service installations.
Ashraf: There are many problems. Sea erosion, water issues, waste management are the major woes of the residents. Also people here are upset about torture of innocents by the police. I shall look into solving each of these problems.
CD: Mangaluru City is a Muslim dominant constituency. Does it make any difference?
Khader: All are equal for me and people of all communities supported me. For several years, I have worked for the people. Ensured that State government schemes are implemented in my constituency, people have recognized my work and party ideology and I am sure they will support me.
Regarding other minority candidates contesting election, it will make the competition interesting and I like competition. I don’t bother about opposition; I only concentrate on my development work.
There is no anti-incumbency. This is the safest election both for me and the party. People have pledged their support. When I go to campaign, they tell me to go home and take rest and come back after winning the election.
Santosh: Though this is the first time I am contesting in the Karnataka Assembly Elections, I have contested local elections five times in areas with minorities and won with their support. I am known to be a leader without religious biases.
I am sure that people in this region will support me. I am not bothered if other candidates are strong or weak or belong to the minority religion. I am contesting on the basis of my capabilities, and am sure that people will vote recognizing the same.
Ashraf: I have support from Muslims and Hindus. This time the fight is between JD(S) and BJP. People are angry with Congress and are upset with Khader. All want him to lose and have pledged their support to me. Even Congress workers will vote for me.
CD: The constituency witnessed a few communal incidents. Cops are accused of arresting innocents. Will these factors have an impact on polls?
Khader: One such incident took place four years ago. And some trouble mongers stabbed innocent people apparently to disrupt peace in the region. But now people are living here with communal harmony. Four years ago a group clash erupted over a trivial issue. Police had arrested many people to control mob violence. I have reprised the State government about the issue. They have said that cases against innocents have been withdrawn.
As a matter of fact, the innocent people against whom the false cases were registered are now silent and are supporting me. It is others who are blaming me. They are trying to gain political mileage by highlighting this issue now.
Santosh: There is no denying that communal violence instances are common here. My main aim if elected is to ensure the peace and harmony the sitting MLA has failed to bring.
Why are many people in this constituency attacked with knives? What about the murder of Zubair, Raju Kotian and Illyas? Has the MLA succeeded in ensuring that the people behind these incidents were caught?
Only communal politics is played in this constituency with little importance to development. However, people here are educated and are able to see through things. Such tactics won’t work anymore.
Ashraf: People in this constituency are good. However, they are upset with the communal incidents that have been repeatedly reported from the region. The duty of people’s representative is to solve the issue at the initial stage. However, the sitting MLA has failed to nip them in the bud and this has caused the issues to go on communal lines. People are seeking change and I assure that if I am elected, will not give chances for such incidents to happen here.
CD: What are your plans to transform the constituency?
Khader: Mangaluru is the best city known to impart quality education. Like I mentioned, I want to improve road infrastructure to connect the education hub over here. People need to live peacefully; hence I want to improve law and order.
The seas in the region are rough and permanent measures are being taken to solve the sea erosion issue. After that, we can focus on developing tourism in the region.
Santosh: I have many plans but primarily I intend to permanently solve the sea erosion issue which is a huge problem to the people in the area. Regular drinking water supply, setting up a government polytechnic and a full-fledged fire department are my priories.
Ashraf: Solving sea erosion issue and setting up of women’s college are my major priorities. Development has not yet reached villages. I will concentrate that development takes place in villages at grass root level.
CD: A large number of people from your constituency are working abroad for meager salaries. What they can expect from you?
Khader: Chief Minister Siddaramaiah led government has already taken initiatives to address the problems of NRIs from Karnataka. Will have to make a NRI policy and draw some plans so that they can stand up on their own legs if they come back home. Giving jobs has to be transparent process, so it will be decided on the basis of the policy.
Santosh: I shall try to create more jobs by setting up companies. I will talk to the state and central governments to set up IT, BT companies in the areas. If the NRIs return, I shall ensure they are not short of job opportunities.
Ashraf: Our leader H D Kumaraswamy is sure to become Chief Minister of Karnataka again. He has mentioned many benefits for NRIs in his plans and I will support him and get the schemes implemented in this region.
CD: Congress veteran B Janardhana Poojary had predicted that U T Khader will be the CM of Karnataka one day?
Khader: He did not mean to say that it will happen in this election. He said that till now Karnataka did not have a Chief Minister from the minority religion and if it ever happens, it will be me.
The reason he said that is because I started my political career early and have been given important portfolios such as health and food and civil supplies. I have also been appreciated for doing well in both.
I will continue to work for my people and if they continue to support me, then maybe who knows I may become chief minister probably 25 years later.
Santosh: Khader has been elected many times, but has he used the opportunity to bring development. Why is the sea erosion issue not solved? What major change he has done? There is an anti-incumbency wave and BJP is sure to win 100 per cent in this constituency.
Ashraf: I was about to contest in Mangaluru South but came to contest from Mangaluru constituency as Khader challenged me. People are supporting me and are upset with him as he has neglected them and their issues. People feel abandoned in this constituency and they shall elect me as they are looking for change.
Battle for Mangaluru: Khader, Santosh, Ashraf field six common questions