Udupi minister-in-charge Jayamala admitted that the Congress is considering four candidates for the Udupi-Chikkamagaluru seat in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. Speaking to reporters in Udupi, Jayamala stated that former Karnataka Minister Pramod Madhwaraj, former MP Vinay Kumar Sorake, Former Deputy Chairperson of NRI Forum of Karnataka Arathi Krishna, and Chikkamagaluru Congress President Vijaykumar are in the fray to contest as the candidate for the party.
The party was defeated by the BJP in all 5 Legislative Assembly seats in Udupi district in the 2018 State Assembly Elections, a result largely attributed to the influence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visits to the district. The Congress is now aiming to turn its fortunes around in the Udupi-Chikkamagaluru region and is searching for a fresh face after its 2014 candidate Jayaprakash Hegde switched over to the BJP.
Pramod Madhwaraj is a former MLA from Udupi and was also the Minister of State for Fisheries, Youth Empowerment and Sports during the tenure of Siddaramaiah. He is the son of former cabinet minister Manorama Madhwaraj and a popular leader in Udupi. While reports in the run-up to the 2018 Karnataka Assembly Elections suggested that he would switch to the BJP, the move never materialised and he clarified that he was staying with the Congress. Contesting from Udupi in 2018, he subsequently went on to lose the election to his school classmate Raghupati Bhat of the BJP.
Vinay Kumar Sorake is an experienced campaigner who has been associated with the Congress for four decades. He was the state president of the National Students Union of India (NSUI) from 1982 to 1987 before becoming the Joint Secretary of the All India Youth Congress in 1989. He has served as an MLA from Puttur constituency (1985-1995) and MP from Udupi (1999-2004). However, he was recently defeated in the 2018 State Assembly Elections after he contested from the Kaup constituency.
Arathi Krishna, Former Deputy Chairperson, NRI Forum of Karnataka, has emerged as a surprise name in the list of candidates in the fray for a ticket from Udupi-Chikkamagaluru. She hails from Udupi and could be a candidate the Congress party turns to if it decides to introduce a fresh face from the constituency. She is the daughter of Begane Ramaiah, who was elected from the erstwhile Sringeri constituency in 1983 and went on to become the Rural Development Minister in the state.
Vijaykumar, Chikkamagaluru Congress President, is the only aspirant mentioned who is from Chikkamagaluru. He admitted that he had put his name forward for consideration but added that he would accept the party's decision and work in favor of the candidate chosen. "It is true I am the only one from Chikkamagaluru whose name has been mentioned but I will continue to work for the party and improve its chances in Chikkamagaluru even if the candidate chosen is someone from Udupi. If the party recognises my efforts and picks me, I would be honoured," Vijaykumar tells TNM.
The constituency was carved out of four Assembly constituencies each from Udupi and Chikkamagaluru district in 2008. In the process, the previous Udupi Lok Sabha constituency lost its coastal character after areas in Chikkamagaluru were added to the constituency. The two districts are divided by the Western Ghats and are characteristically different in its geography. While Chikkamagaluru is marked by picturesque hills and coffee plantations, Udupi is a coastal district with its own characteristic coastal culture.
The Congress party's state leadership including former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and KPCC President Dinesh Gundu Rao have begun campaigning in the coastal districts with Siddaramaiah questioning Udupi-Chikkamagaluru MP Shobha Karandlaje over the fate of the fishermen from Udupi who have been missing for over 80 days.
Sources within the BJP indicated that Shobha Karandlaje is set to be the candidate once again despite opposition from local BJP leaders in Chikkamagaluru.