In the Udupi-Chikkamagaluru constituency, the lone woman MP from Karnataka - Shobha Karandlaje - is fighting a perception that she has neglected the constituency since 2014.
Shobha is not just an MP but also the General Secretary of the BJP in the state. She is seeking a reelection from the Udupi-Chikkamagaluru constituency despite voices within the BJP appealing to the party's high command for a different candidate. TNM caught up with Shobha on the campaign trail at Saibrakatte in Udupi about her renomination, discord within the BJP, and her opponent - Pramod Madhwaraj contesting on a JD(S) ticket.
Before your nomination was confirmed, a 'Go Back Shobha' campaign was initiated in which social media users appealed to the BJP to change the party's candidate in Udupi-Chikkamagaluru. What are your thoughts on BJP workers unhappy with your nomination and do you think it will affect the upcoming elections?
It is normal when there is an indication that the party will win from one Lok Sabha constituency, many aspirants will expect a ticket. This is not wrong and there is a democratic set up in BJP. Anyone can ask for a ticket and some of them started a campaign like this but today, all workers of the BJP are working together as one unit to ensure Narendra Modi is Prime Minister again.
What are the works that you have taken up in your tenure as MP?
For this constituency, we have turned state highways into national highways. There was a request from people to complete double-railway track and electrification of Konkan railway and work on it has begun starting in Madgaon. It will be completed in one-and-a-half years.
CRF (Centra Road Fund) road development works have been taken up. The first Sakhi centre in Karnataka has been inaugurated in Udupi. A Government Tool Room & Training Centre (GTTC) and Kendriya Vidyalayas have been built in this constituency for the first time.
Also, the Ramakrishna Skill Development College is being built in Udupi Railway Station. The first Gems and Jewellers certification institute in India has been built in Udupi and admissions are beginning now.
But in spite of this, there is criticism that you have focused on state and national issues more than the issues affecting the constituency.
We have paid attention to a lot of developmental work in this region but there is work that is remaining. There is scope to build tourism here. There are problems faced by the fishermen community, coffee growers, areca nut growers and we have to give them their due and we should complete the works we have begun and we will do this in the next five years.
Were you surprised by the fact that the Congress handed over the seat to the JD(S) despite the latter's limited presence in the two districts?
Chikkamagaluru is a constituency that had given a rebirth to Indira Gandhi. But this time, there is no Congress symbol to vote for. This shows their weakness since they have stooped to this level. There is no Congress candidate from here and it is a surprise because at one point, Udupi-Chikkamagaluru was considered a Congress bastion. But now, in 10 Assembly seats, nine of them are held by BJP. So the BJP has emerged here and the dream of making India Congress-mukt which is shared by PM Modi can begin from here.
You have argued in Parliament about the cycle of political murders in coastal Karnataka. But critics have claimed that you are making the issue communal. What do you have to say about this?
Today, the youth have been killed by jihadis and people do not talk about this. Not even the government. Today I ask Congress and JD(S) leaders when these people died, weren't they the youth of Karnataka?
You have been accused of selectively raising your voice to highlight deaths of Hindu workers. What about the deaths of RTI activist Vinayak Baliga from Mangaluru or Prashant Poojary from Udupi?
Why haven't they (Opposition) raised their voice for them? Why haven't they given them solutions? Why are they waiting and saying that we should raise our voice? Because they haven't raised their voices, we had to raise it and give them justice. There is a need to raise the voice for everyone and particularly when there is injustice against our workers, we will do this.
There have been repeated protests over the long-standing issue surrounding sand mining in Udupi. Last year, protestors demanded that 171 persons be given permission to extract sand from Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) areas in the district while an NGT ruling has banned sand mining in CRZ areas. How do you propose to resolve this issue?
I have told the government clearly that the (state) government should take the sand and sell it. I have spoken about this with ministers, state representatives and in meetings with MLAs and Deputy Commissioner. If they (state government) don't want to give sand to private operators, then the government can take the sand and under the AC or tahsildar's directive and the sand can be given for the poor and for government related construction work.