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Monday, Apr 26, 2004

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Ashok Naik, Rane main contenders

By R.S. Habbu

KARWAR, APRIL 25. The Karwar Assembly Constituency comprising Karwar and Joida taluks did not have an elected representative for the past four-and-a-half years following the murder of Vasant Asnotikar, who was elected on the Congress ticket in 1999.

There had been a long legal battle waged by Prabhakar Rane, former Minister, who was defeated in those elections, against the election result.

He contended that he should be declared elected as Asnotikar resorted to corrupt practices to win the election.

This legal battle has come to an end now with Mr. Rane entering the election arena again. However, the electorate, who took the void created by the death of Asnotikar in their stride, are not too enthusiastic over the election now.

But the major political parties are engaged in a vigorous campaign to attract the voters. They have resorted to door-to-door campaign. There are six candidates in the fray — Ashok Naik of the Congress, Gangadhar Bhat of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Mr. Rane of the Janata Dal (S), Gajender Naik of the Janata Party, Preetam Masoorkar of Kannada Nadu and Leo Fernandes Lewis of the Trinamool Congress. There appears to be a triangular contest among the Congress, the BJP and the Janata Dal (S) candidates. However, the real fight is likely between Mr. Rane and Mr. Bhat.

Congress loses support

Karwar has been a bastion of the Congress all these years. But the dissidence in the party surfaced soon after the announcement of the party candidate. The people of Komarpanth community, which has been supporting the Congress, were the first to announce their withdrawal of support to the party on the ground that their demand for selecting a member of the community as the party candidate was not honoured. What irked them was the reported statement of Margaret Alva, Lok Sabha candidate in the Kanara Lok Sabha Constituency, that Komarpanths do not form a major community in Karwar to be considered for candidature.

Subsequently, a section of the fishermen community, led by P.M. Tendel, also an aspirant for the party ticket, declared its support to Mr. Rane.

The worry of the Congress further deepened when members of the Vasant Asnotikar Abhimanigala Sangha openly announced their support to the BJP.

Shubhalata Asnotikar, MLC, is not to be seen in the Congress campaign.

She is reported to have been deputed as party observer to Kanakpur. Even in Joida taluk, where the Congress has a strong support base, Vilas Naik, former zilla panchayat vice-president and prominent Congress leader of Joida, is said to have been disenchanted with the party for not nominating him as the candidate. Mr. Naik is considered a nominee of Ms. Alva.

He belongs to dominant Konkan Maratha community. He was the president of the Karwar Urban Development Authority.

However, Mr. Rane also belongs to the Konkan Maratha community. However, the Janata Dal (S) is not a force to reckon with in Karwar. Moreover, his frequent shifting of loyalty is being criticised by many.

Mr. Rane won the Assembly elections in 1983, 1985 and 1989 on the Congress ticket. He quit the Congress to join the BJP in 1999 following the dominance of Asnotikar in the party. He shifted his loyalty to the Janata Dal (S) recently.

Mr. Rane, who had established a rapport with Dileep Naik, the main accused in the Asnotikar murder case, has been trying to win over the Bhandari community to which the latter belonged.

Dileep Naik's murder is considered a setback to Mr. Rane.

The BJP never had a strong base in Karwar. The BJP candidates lost their deposits in all elections, except those in 1999.

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