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Congress, BJP in direct contest

The JD(S) stands a reasonable chance only in three of the seven districts in this phase, report BR Srikanth and Srinivas Hebbar.

india Updated: May 16, 2008 01:12 IST

Unlike the first round of polling in the Karnataka assembly elections that saw a three-way contest between the Congress, the BJP and the Janata Dal (Secular), the second phase on Friday will largely be a face-off between the two national players.

The JD(S) stands a reasonable chance only in three of the seven districts in this phase.

The BJP’s strongholds are Malnad in the Western Ghats and the coastal regions of Udipi and Dakshin Kanara. The Congress was mauled here in the 2004 polls but is expected to do much better this time.

A key seat is Shikaripura in Shimoga district, the stronghold of the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate BS Yediyurappa. He has won from here several times. But this time the entire opposition is backing the Samajwadi Party’s S Bangarappa, who has never lost an election against Yediyurappa.

Another high profile clash is on at Harapanahalli, where Rahul Gandhi campaigned for MP Prakash of the Congress. The BJP candidate is G Karunakara Reddy, a wealthy iron ore magnate from neighbouring Bellary.

In the coastal districts, delimitation has introduced many uncertainties. This area — from which the ubiquitous Udipi restaurants across the country originated — always prided itself on its separate identity, political and otherwise.

This has been somewhat dented following delimitation, which has clubbed parts of it with its non-coastal neighbours.

The Udipi parliamentary seat, for instance, has turned into the Udipi-Chikamagalur seat.

The coast was traditionally a Congress bastion until it was breached by the BJP the last time and the party is fighting hard to win it back. Both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul have campaigned here in recent days.

The presence of a large number of Dalits and the growing popularity of Mayawati’s BSP in this region will also make it harder for the Congress to recover lost ground.