Friday, April 24, 2009

Coffee, naxals dominant issues in Udupi-Chickamaglur

Udupi (PTI): Coffee, naxals and a disputed shrine are the dominant issues in the newly-carved LS constituency Udupi-Chickamaglur, the largest in Karnataka.

The constituency is hit by naxal menace, affected by woes of plantation growers and toddy tappers and torn apart by controversy over centuries old Hindu-Muslim shrine Bababudangiri/Datta Peetha.

Ruling BJP's State unit president,D.V. Sadananda Gowda, is taking on Jayaprakash Hegde of the Congress among others.

Mr. Gowda, who won the Lok Sabha seat from Mangalore in the last elections, has shifted to Udupi-Chikamagalur, considered safe for the BJP which had garnered 46.89 per cent of the total votes in the 2008 Assembly elections in the segments falling under the new constituency.

Besides, three Assembly segments from Kodagu district which formed part of Mangalore seat and held by BJP have now come under this constituency.

The Naxal menace continues to raise its ugly head in the constituency despite government's two-pronged strategy of hunting down Naxals and announcing a developmental package to the people in a bid to address the root cause that breeds extremism.

Coffee growers in Chikmagalur, considered the land of Indian coffee, are in doldrums due to drought, heavy rains and steep fall in prices with diseases affecting the plants, causing a drop in production.

The coffee industry, which provides employment to lakhs of labourers and yields revenue of Rs 2,000 crore, is in deep trouble, according to Karnataka Growers Federation President N.K. Pradeep, who has written letters to all candidates highlighting this.

Similar is the case of arecanut growers who are demanding higher support price for their produce.

The Bababudanagiri-Datta Peetha has often come to the centre stage in Chikamagalur district as an emotive issue as the Sangh Parivar outfits have organised various programmes during the annual pilgrimage to protest alleged "Islamisation" of the shrine, visited by both Hindus and Muslims.

Parts of the constituency are hit by the Naxal menace, an issue which has affected the local people. Naxals have also distributed pamphlets asking the people to boycott the polls.

Mr. Gowda has promised voters that he would address the issues of coffee growers and others.

Claiming that the current trends were favourable to the BJP, he said his party had decided to field him as he felt he can represent the constituency effectively considering various problems and aspects in the region.

In the 2008 Assembly polls, the BJP romped home in seven out of the eight Assembly segments.

The newly created Parliamentary seat is a mix of erstwhile Udupi and Chikmagalur constituencies. After delimitation the Udupi-Chikamagalur constituency comprises four Assembly segments of Udupi District — Kundapur, Udupi, Kaup, Karkala — and Sringeri, Mudigere (SC), Chikamagalur and Tarikere segments in Chikmagalur District.

Mr. Hegde, a former minister was elected to the Assembly from Brahmavar constituency thrice. He contested twice on a JD(S) ticket and once as an independent.

The son of a former district judge, Mr. Hegde, has been active in trade unions and been the employees union leader during his short tenure in Vijaya Bank.

Mr. Hegde, whose name was announced despite some differences in the party said, "I will strive to overrun the BJP's poll propaganda. I am confident of defeating Gowda."

The third front has fielded CPI candidate in the constituency hoping to bank on the significant number of plantation labourers.

The constituency has 12,03,786 voters comprising 5,84,894 men and 6,18,892 women.

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