In a blow to the Congress, a rebel leader from its party has refused to withdraw his nomination from Udupi-Chikkamagaluru constituency in the Lok Sabha elections.
Amrit Shenoy, who is popular within the Congress party in Udupi, decided to file his nomination as an independent candidate after the Congress conceded the Udupi-Chikkamagaluru seat to alliance partner JD(S) as part of a seat-sharing agreement between the parties. The JD(S), after deliberation, decided to field Congress leader Pramod Madhwaraj, albeit on a JD(S) ticket.
"I am contesting the elections to represent the Congress party from here. I was asked to withdraw my candidature but I have decided that I will not withdraw in protest against the decision to hand over the constituency to the JD(S)," Amrit told TNM.
The move to hand over the constituency to the JD(S) created fissures within the Congress party in Udupi since the JD(S) has limited presence in the district. The party was not able to finalise a candidate from the constituency and was forced to rope in a Congress leader to contest. "The JD(S) has a limited presence in Udupi. The JD(S) candidate received just 14,000-odd votes last time around, so we do not understand the logic behind this move. In an alliance, the two parties should play to their strengths and pick candidates who are stronger in the region," adds Amrit.
Amrit's decision to contest has also led to a division within the party particularly since he has forged a reputation as being a strong grassroots leader. "There is confusion among party workers because Amrit is someone who has worked closely with the party at the grassroots level. It is a different issue altogether to win an election as an independent but this will definitely affect the cadre of Congress workers in Udupi and Chikkamagaluru," explains a Congress leader who did not wish to be named.
Even an attempt by Pramod to pacify Amrit and ask him to withdraw his nomination failed to change his decision. Amrit and Pramod will now be facing incumbent MP and BJP leader Shobha Karandlaje who beat competition from Jayaprakash Hegde to secure her nomination from the Udupi-Chikkamagaluru constituency. She is facing opposition from a section of BJP workers in the constituency who started a 'Go Back Shobha' campaign highlighting the perception that she has neglected the constituency and has concentrated on state-level politics.