The party has gone back to one of its long-time loyalists in Udupi in a bid to repeat circumstances that served them well in 2008.

Raghupathi Bhat returns as BJPs Udupi candidate 5 yrs after sex tape scandalFIle image
Karnataka Elections Karnataka 2018 Friday, April 20, 2018 - 17:32

Lifting the suspense over who would be the BJP’s candidate from Udupi, BJP announced on Friday that former MLA Raghupathi Bhat will return to contest the Assembly elections in the constituency.

There appeared to be confusion over who the party would pick to contest from Udupi as it did not name a contestant from Udupi in the first two lists of candidates released.

But the party has finally revealed that former MLA Raghupathi Bhat will be returning to politics to set up a straight fight against current MLA and Minister of Fisheries, Youth Empowerment and Sports Pramod Madhwaraj of the Congress.

According to BJP’s Udupi District President Mattaru Ratnakar Heggade, Raghupati was always going to be the leader to challenge Madhwaraj in Udupi. In 2008, Raghupati Bhat won over Pramod Madhwaraj by a margin of 2,479 votes but since then, the political fortunes of the two leaders have gone in opposite directions.

Madhwaraj succeeded Raghupati as the MLA of Udupi after the BJP leader did not contest the 2013 Assembly elections. A video clip of Raghupati with an unidentified woman was leaked to TV channels in March 2013, just before elections in the state. This lead to Raghupati withdrawing his candidature, citing ‘personal reasons.’ Senior BJP leader B Sudhakara Shetty contested in his place and was defeated by a whopping margin of 39,524 votes by Pramod Madhwaraj.

Meanwhile, another former MLA Lalaji Mendon will contest from Kaup constituency. Like Raghupati, Lalaji had won in the constituency in 2004 and was then re-elected in 2008 before he was defeated by Vinay Kumar Sorake of the Congress by a margin of 1,855 votes in 2013.

Such a reversal was a recurring theme in the state in the 2013 Assembly elections. The coastal district is considered a stronghold of the BJP but Congress trounced the saffron party in 2013, winning in 3 out of 5 constituencies in the district. BJP’s lone win in the district came in Karkala.

In its bid to reverse the humiliation suffered five years ago, the party re-inducted four-time MLA Halady Srinivas Shetty into the party. Srinivas had rebelled and contested as an independent candidate from Kundapura in 2013 after earlier winning three times with the BJP.

Srinivas was confirmed as the candidate from Kundapura on April 8 while V Sukumar Shetty was penciled in to contest from Byndoor. V Sunil Kumar, the only BJP MLA in the district will contest from Karkala, where he is the incumbent.

There was however uncertainty over who would be the party’s candidate in the crucial Udupi constituency. Sri Lakshmivara Theertha, the present pontiff of the Shiroor mutt in Udupi, had earlier expressed his desire to contest for the BJP from Udupi but the party’s district president confirmed that there was never any indication of that. The seer is now set to contest in Udupi as an independent candidate. The names of Uday Kumar Shetty and former MP Jayaprakash Hegde were also considered.

But the party has gone back to one of its long-time loyalists in Udupi in a bid to repeat circumstances that served them well in 2008. But much has changed since then and it remains to be seen if Raghupati can restart his political career from where he left off.

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