Coastal Congress unit avoided ‘stars’, here’s why.

A section of Congress leaders in the area believes that talking about secularism is counter-productive as a large chunk of the electorate is considered communally polarised.
R Padmaraj addressing party workers.
R Padmaraj addressing party workers.

MANGALURU: Is Congress not wedded to its ideology when it comes to coastal Karnataka? It seems so if one goes by the recent developments. Sample this, though the Congress did not leave anything to chance to wrest the Dakshina Kannada Lok Sabha seat from BJP, none of the party’s star campaigners campaigned forR Padmaraj Poojary, much to everyone’s surprise.

Initially, Congress maintained that Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and his deputy DK Shivakumar were scheduled to campaign here, but had to cancel their visit due to their prior commitments. Dakshina Kannada District Congress Committee president and MLC K Harish Kumar had also said that precious two days are “wasted” in preparations if star campaigners are invited.

However, the truth came out on Wednesday, a day after the results were announced. Congress candidate Padmaraj implied that it was a conscious decision not to have any star campaigners. According to him, they did not have any big leader to campaign for him as people in the region will “misinterpret” the Congress’ ideology. “We also need to understand the people’s mentality here,” he said.

Informed sources said that a section of Congress leaders here believes that talking about secularism is counter-productive as a large chunk of the electorate is considered communally polarised.

A Muslim leader said that many in the party felt that the majority community could consider Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar as “anti-Hindu” and appeasers of minorities.

Asked if campaigning by the chief minister and deputy chief minister could have helped Padmaraj, he said unless the people’s mindset changes, no big leader can make an impact here.

Some others in the party said that the reduced winning margin for BJP candidates is because of this strategy.

Well aware that it is difficult to win the constituency unless he woos a section of traditional BJP voters, Padmaraj had made a conscious attempt not to speak against Hindutva. Initially, in one of the interviews, he had said that Dakshina Kannada was not a Hindutva stronghold, but was quick to term it a slip of the tongue and said that he actually meant it is not a BJP stronghold.

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