A silent mass of men follows Haladi Srinivas Shetty, a four time BJP MLA from Kundapur who resigned from the party last year alleging that his seniors had reneged their word on making him a minister in the Jagadish Shettar ministry.
They just walk behind Haladi, who is now contesting as an independent candidate to prove a point to the BJP top brass for treating him in a cavalier manner. They don’t raise slogans or carry banner or flags.
“My reputation should do,” says Shetty.
It’s an unusual situation for both the BJP and the Congress to deal with an independent candidate, who is said to not carry any tag of anti-incumbency despite representing the constituency thrice in a row.
Elsewhere, in the coastal belt of Karnataka comprising the three districts of Dakshina Kannada, Udupi and Uttara Kannada totaling 21 constituencies, BJP is feeling the challenge of retaining its hold over an area which was once considered to be its stronghold and a RSS’ laboratory for Hindutva.
Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi upped the ante during his rally in Mangalore as he hit upon the UPA’s export policy on meat. Linking it with cow slaughter, Modi aimed to strike a chord with voters in an area which has seen clashes over the issue in the past.
The Congress buoyed by its success in urban local body elections, is counting on about 1.7 lakh voters in Mangalore. With half of them being Muslims and Christians, the party has fielded no Hindu candidate for any of the four seats.
In Mangalore North, Congress candidate GA Mohiuddin Bava faces BJP’s Krishna Palemar.
In Mangalore South, popular bureaucrat-turned politician JR Lobo is giving a tough fight to four-time MLA N Yogish Bhat of BJP. But in Mangalore, a Congress fort, local party men aren’t sure if UT Khader will win again.
A front for Muslims, SDPI or Social Democratic Party of India, is also making its presence felt since it tasted victory in local body polls. BJP and RSS leaders warn of its rise as a sign of communal politics.
Akbar Ali, SDPI leader, however, says “SDPI was formed with a view to unite the minorities, backward classes and dalits who are not yet in the political mainstream of the country.”