Karnataka polls: Ramanath Rai faces tough challenge in his last election
In 2018, Rai lost despite implementing a slew of developmental works.
MANGALURU: Former minister and senior Congress leader B Ramanath Rai is contesting from the Bantwal constituency for the ninth straight term. Since 1985, he has won six times and has lost twice.
This time, the 71-year-old Rai has made an emotional appeal to voters, announcing that it will be his last election and hopes for a memorable farewell. His daughter Charishma Rai is also actively campaigning for her father for the first time. Citing various surveys that give a majority to the Grand Old Party, Congress leaders and Rai’s followers are trying to woo voters, saying if Rai wins, he will become a minister which will help put the development of Bantwal on the fast track.
But the veteran is facing a tough challenge from sitting BJP MLA Rajesh Naik U, who appears to be a step ahead in campaigning. The first-time MLA is banking on developmental works implemented in the last five years, like the construction of vented dams, drinking water projects, approach roads to temples and daivasthanas, funds released to worship places etc.
Also, Naik, who maintains a cordial relationship with people of all faiths and is not known to make communal statements, reminds voters that no communal riot broke out in his segment during his tenure.
In 2018, Rai lost despite implementing a slew of developmental works. He had to face the wrath of voters because of the controversy that erupted over stopping mid-day meal funds to some schools. The issue had led to a war of words between Rai and RSS leader Kalladka Prabhakar Bhat. The whole episode led to the deep polarization in the constituency and helped BJP consolidate Hindu votes which eventually led to Rai’s defeat by over 16,000 votes.
Naik, contesting for the third time now, is said to have further consolidated his vote bank by laying approach roads to daivastanas located in interior places and through Muslim and Christian outreach. A few months ago, he tried to solve the drinking water problem in Sajipa Munnur, a Muslim-dominated village.
Unlike in 2018, SDPI is also in the fray this time banking on 50,000-strong Muslim votes in Bantwal. The hijab row that erupted in the region might have gravitated a section of young Muslim voters towards SDPI, adding to Rai’s worry.