At the heart of the District Headquarter of Dakshina Kannada, the election fever heats-up as Congress’ leader and first time MLA J R Lobo will test his mettle from Mangaluru City-South Assembly constituency in the May 12 Karnataka polls. The former Karnataka Administrative Service (KAS) officer, who on his debut in 2013 sent back-packing then four-times MLA of the constituency N Yogish Bhat, will now try to stand tall against the BJP candidate.
Meanwhile, the BJP in the region has turned into a divided home - while on one side the party has officially set up Vedavyas Kamath, the party President of Mangaluru City-South, on the other hand Srikar Prabhu, the former state executive member of the BJP, who is still not sure why he was thrown out of the saffron party, has announced his own candidacy as an independent.
Lodging a victory at the Mangaluru City-South becomes a matter of prestige for these candidates, as they house maximum number of key government, private offices, educational, IT, religious institution, trade, commerce and brings a sense of city life into the district, acting as an eye-candy for both tourist and investors.
In the midst of their busy campaign, the candidates make time to speak to coastaldigest.com for an interview. The excerpts below:
CD: Do you think the battle in Mangaluru City-South is only between BJP and Congress or do other parties or independent contenders stand a chance?
Lobo: The fight is only between the BJP and the Congress. CPI(M) is insignificant. I am confident that I will get re-elected again.
Kamath: It will be a dual fight between BJP and Congress. BJP is sure to win.
Prabhu: The poll battle in the constituency has started off as a triangular with Congress, BJP and me in the main front. But very soon, it will be just be between Congress and me and there is no doubt that I will emerge as No. 1.
CD: Are there any unsolved issues in the constituency? How would you address the same?
Lobo: Unemployment is the biggest issue in the constituency. To find jobs, the youth migrate from the city. Now, Mangaluru has become more of a pensioners city and many parents want to have their children near them. It’s a socio-economical issue, the best way to deal with this is create job opportunities, which will retain the youth power in the city. There is a lot of potential in tourism and industrial sector, which can be tapped.
My main agenda will be to focus on investment flow in the city and create employment opportunities. Law and order maintenance is a must and I am happy in my last tenure no such untoward incident took place. I shall push for the same in the future too.
Kamath: The city faces acute shortage of water especially in summers. Traffic is a mess and parking has become a major woe. Interference of the state government in law and order is another issue we see. If I get elected, will try to solve each of the city’s issues in a systematic approach.
Prabhu: The incumbent Congress MLA had promised to improve the condition of Mangaluru’s Central market. Has he succeeded? The market is in a pathetic condition. Also, Mangalureans suffer due to water shortage in summer. Traffic has become a nuisance. If elected as MLA, I will solve these issues.
CD: Is there any dissidence in your party? Do you think it will benefit/hamper your poll prospectus?
Lobo: There is no dissidence within the Congress.
Kamath: BJP is a disciplined party and will always support the party and its candidate. People want to support the party and do not want to waste it, voting for the negative side.
If you think Srikar Prabhu contesting elections will affect my prospectus, you can wait and watch.
Prabhu: Whoever says that I am contesting elections to divide BJP votes is far from truth. A person becomes a rebel when he leaves the party when he does not get ticket for election and joins another party or fights on his own. However, I was suspended from the BJP in 2014 without any reason or explanation. I have been out from the party for almost four years. How can I be called a rebel? I am fighting as an individual, a constitutional right every Indian citizen has. BJP has pitched in a candidate who is mired in controversy and has been accused of having a criminal background.
I have BJP workers sympathy, as they know I was suspended without even a show-cause notice and without a reason. I have been active in social service. If voters in the constituency vote for me recognizing my service or if BJP workers elect me as I have a clean background, you cannot say I am dividing votes. Anyone is free to contest and a voter is free to choose.
CD: Do you think there is Modi wave in the constituency? Will it benefit/hamper your prospectus?
Lobo: No. People in this constituency are educated and know what is happening. They do not form opinions suddenly but over a period of time. People have suffered during demonetization. Though the intention to eradicate black money was good, the way demonetization was announced and executed was very poor.
Kamath: While we are campaigning, we have realised that people are impressed with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and are complaining about Chief Minister Siddaramaiah-led State government and municipal administration. So hundred percent BJP will win.
Prabhu: Modi wave may be there to some extent. It is an example that people vote for image of the person. Similarly, in Mangaluru people who know me will vote for my image.
5) What are your plans to transform Mangaluru City South?
Lobo: Providing 24X7 drinking water supply under ADB Phase II, improvement of underground drainage, construction of modern markets, ultra-modern bus stand near State Bank, modern bus stand in Pumpwell, development of tourism, improving fisheries and Old Port, promotion of sports and youth welfare, setting up a government engineering college and medical college and evening engineering college are some of main works among many we are intending to take up
Kamath: We shall looking into solving the water issue that affects Mangaluru, bring down crime rate, solve parking issue, complete the Ambedkar Bhavan work, bring in more job opportunities and also highlight the achievements of Kudmul Ranga Rao.
Prabhu: Name the Bavutagudda Road as Mulki Sunder Ram Shetty Road on top priority. Provide drinking water for Mangaluru, construction of full-fledged underground drainage system, improve traffic system, improve central market and the fish market, systematic solid waste management, construction of new bus stand in the city are some of the many work I intend to take up.
CD to Srikar Prabhu:
There are rumours that you contested the election as an independent to blackmail BJP to take you back to the party?
Prabhu: Why would I do that? I was banned for BJP for six years and four have been completed. If I wanted to go back to the party, I would have waited for the ban to get over. I announced my decision to fight as an independent much before Congress and BJP announced their candidates.
My main intention is to serve the people. Also, I was asked to leave the BJP party without any reason. I have worked for the party for over two decades and many were sad that I was removed. Hence, people asked me fight as an independent, so that I have an opportunity to solve their problems.
If you win as an independent are there chances that you may merge with the BJP?
Prabhu: I have worked for BJP for many years and just because I am not in the party, cannot wipe out my ideologies. I openly say that I am still inclined to BJP ideologies. I still support Prime Minister Narendra Modi and also have pledged to support him in the MP election.
However, as I am contesting as an independent, people are my high command and I will need to consult with the people before taking decisions.
CD to J R Lobo:
In the recent days, your name has been dragged in the KUDCEMP and AMRUT scheme misappropriations. Do you think this will affect your poll prospectus?
Lobo: All the allegations are baseless and far from truth. I have already clarified my stand in front of the media and will stand by it. The opposition is famous for propagating false news and expert in telling lies. I have already filed a complaint. I have obtained injunction order against those people from the court and I am also initiating criminal action against those people.
CD to Vedavyas Kamath:
Do you think, your name being associate in the Vinayak Baliga murder case may affect your poll prospectus?
Kamath: I will call you back in five minutes. (We are still eagerly waiting for Kamath’s call)
What are the plans of Lobo, Kamath, Prabhu for Mangaluru South? Read before you vote!