Udupi: In the temple town of Udupi, the sparks are flying and it’s not because of a Mahayagna this time. The constituency is witnessing an interesting fight not between two political parties or two candidates but between a candidate, Pramod Madhwaraj (Congress) and a party (BJP).
Sitting MLA and Sports Minister Mr Madhwaraj is fighting against the BJP's former MLA Raghupathi Bhat. This is the second time the classmates are arraigned against each other in Udupi after 2008 when Bhat won the battle.
This time however, the situation seems to be different. Pramod Madhwaraj may be the Congress candidate but his team is campaigning by focusing on his personal rapport with voters and his achievements rather than those of the party. In the BJP camp, it’s the opposite- party workers are giving more importance to the BJP’s achievements and PM Modi’s stature than Raghupathi Bhat.
"Madhwaraj had done a lot of work for the people here even before he became MLA which he continued after assuming power. Even after becoming Minister, there is no charge against him and he continues to work for the constituency. Several developmental works are visible to the public, so he has earned a good name for himself which makes his team confident of winning this time," sources said.
"Pramod has always maintained a distance from senior Congress leaders of the region and has developed his own identity. Due to this, there is a gap between him and other leaders. Even in the election campaign, there are not many senior Congress leaders in his team which essentially comprises of his supporters and the public. There are a good number of voters who vote personally for Pramod and not for the Congress which is why his team is campaigning in his name," the sources added. In the BJP, it is the reverse with workers stressing on the achievements of the BJP and PM Modi’s charisma."The BJP cannot focus much on the candidate as there are personal allegations against him. It was due to these allegations(pertaining to the suicide of his wife) that he stayed away from the election in 2013. Though not proved, these allegations could prove costly to the party. This time we are stressing on the achievements of the BJP and Mr Modi. The more the ‘Modi wave’ impresses people, the better our chances of winning," a senior party leader told Deccan Chronicle.
This is the third assembly election for Raghupathi Bhat and the fourth for Pramod. Bhat had contested the 2004 election for the first time and had defeated Congress MLA U.R. Sabhapathi. In the same year, Pramod contested from Brahmavar but was defeated by independent candidate Jayaprakash Hegde.
In the 2008 election, after delimitation, Pramod moved to Udupi as Congress candidate but was defeated by Raghupathi Bhat by 2,479 votes. Due to various reasons, Bhat did not contest the 2013 election and Pramod won for the first time against the BJP's Sudhakar Shetty by 39,524 votes. Now after a gap of about 10 years, the two old rivals will be facing each other.
The BJP has managed to get support from the major communities like Billavas and fishermen apart from the traditional voters in the region which could help Bhat. But Pramod's strength cannot be underestimated. Though he was earlier defeated by Bhat, Pramod now enjoys good support from various communities including the Udupi Shivalli Brahmin community to which Raghupathi Bhat belongs. The Madhwaraj family enjoys popular support across the constituency too. Pramod is banking on his achievements and his family's contribution whereas the BJP is confident that Modi's recent visit to Udupi will win them votes.
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