Will BJP’s Poonja turn giant slayer in Belthangady?

Mangaluru: You could easily describe the contest in Belthangady constituency of Dakshina Kannada district as a clash between a titan and a novice as 73- year- old Congress veteran,  Vasanth Bangera,  contesting his 10th election, is in the fray against 36 -year- old Harish Poonja of the BJP,  fighting his first. 

Despite his inexperience in electoral politics, Mr Poonja seems to enjoy the trust of the BJP and Sangh Parivar, which appear to   believe that he could be the change the people here want after years of  Mr Bangera, who is the sitting MLA and they could be possibly right.

“We see the Vasanth Bangera of the 1980s in Harish Poonja,” said a senior citizen,  adding , "Bangera, who was then with the BJP, was young and energetic in 1983 when he entered politics. People wanted a change and voted for him. This time too people want a change and are backing the BJP. It is not so much a case of being anti- Bangera as being pro- Poonja." 

Said Mr Rajesh, a professional from Belthangady,"Even to this day Bangera has a very good rapport with the people, which is the secret of his victory all these years. But there is no visible development in the constituency. Except the Vajpayee wave in 1999 and 2004 election, when BJP's Prabhakar Bangera won from here, the party has not had a strong candidate in Belthangady in later elections. For the first time it has fielded a promising candidate in Harish Poonja." 

To Mr Bangera's advantage his Billava community is  the biggest of all in Belthangady and there aren't as many Bunts , the community to which Mr Poonja belongs. But the young BJP leader is said to have gained a good reputation in the constituency over the last few years by working for people of all communities and caste . 

" People go to him with various  problems in the belief that he will solve them. They see a young Bangera in Poonja. This could be his advantage," Mr Rajesh observes.

But dismissing any claims of Mr Bangera losing these polls, Congress leaders here say while the BJP may put up a good fight, his win is a foregone conclusion.

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