Mangaluru: State BJP president Nalin Kumar Kateel is facing his first important challenge since assuming charge, in his hometown of Mangaluru, where elections were held to the local corporation on Tuesday.
He stands to gain should the BJP win the Mangalore City Corporation (MCC) elections, which recorded a 59.67 per cent turnout. But should the party be defeated, it could give the Congress a handle to humiliate him for not being able to make sure its win on his home turf.
Since its inception, the MCC has always been a bastion of the Congress party except for the period 2007-12 when the BJP controlled it. The Congress, which returned to power in the corporation in 2013, is keen on retaining it as it is its last major stronghold on the state's coast.
But local Congress leaders concede the party may be defeated by the BJP by a small margin as it has the help of its MLAs and MP, who are allowed to vote in the mayoral elections.
The anti -incumbency factor, discontent with candidate selection within the party, the failure of leadership in the district Congress has also left the party worried. Adding to its concerns, supporters of veteran leader, Janardhan Poojary stayed away from campaigning as they felt neglected in candidate selection. But on the upside the Congress still enjoys strong support in 15 of the MCC's 60 wards.
“It is a tough fight. It is not easy for us to return to power. But it is not easy for the BJP either even if it has a slight edge owing to the strategy it has adopted. Although the Congress had no strategy, we may still easily win 24 to 27 seats. But we hope to get more,” said a Congress leader.
While conceding that the Congress was strong in some pockets of the city, a BJP leader said it had fielded minority candidates in these parts to puncture its support.
The party could also get some help from the SDPI, which is contesting in six wards as it could help divide the minority vote....