As Karnataka Today does the rounds of significant constituencies across the state in the run up of the approaching Karnataka Assembly polls, it finds that in the Mangaluru Constituency, incumbent UT Khader will have a cakewalk. Harsha Gatty tells us more.
Since the first victory of its candidate Gajanan Pandit in 1957 from Mangalore constituency (then known as Mangalore II), the local electorate has been largely favorable to the Congress party. Except for a single stint for CPI leader A Krishna Shetty in 1962, CPI (M) leader Ramachandra Rao in 1983 and BJP leader Jayaram Shetty in 1994, it is the 'Grand Old Party' of India that has received the poll mandate of the constituency for 11 times.
Often identified as a 'communally sensitive' area, in 2014 the coastal constituency was upgraded from Town Municipal Council to City Municipal Council of Ullal and is divided into 27 wards. According to the data released by the Election Commission of India (ECI) of the 1,64,236 voters, turnout was 76.07 per cent in the 2013 election. Among them, 81,017 were males and 83,214 females. The region has sizeable Muslim population constituting to 56.10%, Hindus being 34.48% and 9.34% are from the Christian community.
The Mangaluru constituency is predominantly a constituency that supports the Congress. In 2013, besides the BJP, Congress, CPI (M) and JD (S) and other political parties, eight candidates contested the polls independently. The contestants largely point at anti-incumbency, said that the slow-pace of development in the region is causing major hurdle for the people. Be it the incomplete drainage connection or impeding approval for the Government Degree College, or free land disbursement for financially weaker sections, despite repeated assurances and appeals, the Congress leader has not acted on the plaints. People are subsequently feeling the need that the existing leadership needs to be changed, therefore either they are voting for new faces or contesting elections independently, leader of Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) Mohammed Akram Hasan said.
Further, the residents say that their repeated appeals to the government to bring about permanent solution for sea erosion, has fallen on deaf ears. They add that temporary measures such as the installation of stone barriers are futile as they are easily eroded by the rough waters and leads to a waste to taxpayers’ money. It’s like throwing cash into the sea. Just days ago, two houses have been washed up and again the families were displaced. Every year the national and state leaders visit the spot and do nothing. Even if half of the touring expense of officials and Ministers to Ullal is rationally used, it would be sufficient to find permanent solution to the sea erosion problem, Sathish K, a local resident says.
The locals are also dismayed over the snail-paced work along the NH 66 highway that has been going on for over seven years and has disrupted the routine commute of the dwellers. Due to the ongoing construction of the structure, the NHAI authorities have even dismantled the bus shelters in the area. It’s a pitiable sight to see that irrespective of rain or heat - the children, women or elderly are made to suffer without any shade while they wait for public transport, another resident Shailaja Kumari complained.
“At present, the constituency has five-Primary Health Care (PHCs) of which three at Kotekar, Eliyar Padavu and Ullal, have been recently upgraded, whereas the PHC at Natekal and Kuttar-Padav are semi-functional. It is a must that all PHCs are functional. Even today people have to go all the way to Wenlock or Lady Goschen for advanced treatment, a fully equipped local PHC would save lives here,” CPM leader, K Krishnappa Salian says, while adding that on priority basis the government must set-up full-fledged hospitals in the region.
During the former elections, Congress bagged 55.59 per cent votes, followed by BJP (32.29%), SDPI (3.85%), CPI(M) (3.05%), JD(S) (1.72%), JD(U)(0.13%). Although eight independent candidates, all belonging to the Muslim community contested against the incumbent Congress leadership, all of them secured merely double digit votes, while losing their election deposits.
Like his father, former legislator U.T Fareed who during his tenure had proven the track record by winning 1972, 1978, 1999 and 2004 elections for the Congress party, incumbent MLA and Minister UT Khader too lived up to the expectations of the INC high command. Taking over the political reign after his father's death, an advocate by profession, Khader proved his bankability by winning 2007 by-election.
In 2008, even as BJP swept 110 seats under the aegis of its leader B. S. Yeddyurappa in the state assembly polls, at Mangalore constituencies Khader formidably retained his seat and he continued to hold on to it even in the 2013 elections.
According to local Congress leaders, the incumbent MLA from the region UT Khader, who also holds the portfolio for Food and Civil supplies in the present state government, will be the obvious asset of the Congress for the 2018 state elections.
Congress Block President of Mangalore, Santhosh Kumar Shetty says that the election at the constituency will be a mere formality and other political parties will have to simply setup candidates to show their presence. Everyone knows Khader connects with local population irrespective of religion or political differences. Like his father, Khader has strived for the people and has dealt with extreme patience and to the best of his abilities. Everyone knows, Khader will emerge victorious, Santhosh Kumar Shetty adds.
While continuing to be opponents and assuring to give a tough competition to Khader, even leaders of other political parties agree that Khader's key strength is that he goes an extra mile to be nice to everyone. Be it his supporters, media or even rivals, Khader has maintained a very cordial relation with everyone. He attends all social or public events pan communities, therefore he has earned acceptability between everyone. Maybe we need to learn a trick or two from him in managing public relation, leader of another political party said.
Speaking to the Karnataka Today, MLA UT Khader, while acknowledging the delay in completion of flyover at NH-66 and non-completion of sea-erosion project, said that given his term he had put his best foot forward in all the public welfare projects.
"We have made several representations to Ministry of Road Transport and Highways and National Highway Authority of India to expedite the project, but there is barely any response. As far as sea-wall is concerned we are already nearing completion of the first phase, given another chance we will be able to go further with the project," Khader said.
He assured that if elected to next term, he would look into availability of potable water for his constituents, will rectify the broken drainage and sewage network at Ullal and propose for the construction of a bridge between Pavur-Harekala to Adyar. This will not only accommodate people to travel faster, but also takeoff a great level of vehicular stress on the existing road, he said. Khader added that he was content by his governance and that he believes that he will retain his post in the 2018 election.