On a hot day with no signs of summer showers in Bantwal, Puttur and Sullia assembly segments under the Dakshina Kannada Lok Sabha (LS) constituency, voters seemed more preoccupied with local, day-to-day concerns than larger political battles. Even as polling day approaches on April 26, the campaigning was dull and people’s responses were rather tepid to political events.

It is a busy period for people of Dakshina Kannada, as many religious festivals in temples are scheduled during the summer months of March–May.

There are more banners of local festivals and temple renovation programmes than political events. Rallies and roadshows are intermittent, as most political leaders seem to focus more on door-to-door campaigning.

Known as Mangalore LS constituency until the delimitation in 2008, this seat was represented by Congress from 1951 to 1989. Janardhana Poojary, former Minister of State for Finance in the Congress governments, represented this constituency for four terms during the elections held between 1977 and 1989.

LK Advani’s Rath Yatra in 1990 brought a wave in favour of BJP in the region. Since the 1991 election, the constituency has been represented by BJP in Lok Sabha. After the 2008 delimitation, the constituency is known as Dakshina Kannada LS constituency. Kodagu district, which was part of Mangalore LS constituency till the delimitation, is now part of Mysuru LS constituency.

In the 2024 election, the main fight is between the first-time contestants, Capt Brijesh Chowta (an army veteran) of BJP and Padmaraj R Poojary of Congress. Apart from them, seven more are in the fray.

Exhaustive travel and conversations with locals revealed that people are more concerned about their everyday issues related to the arecanut crop and the slow progress on some road projects in the district.

Referring to the spread of ‘yellow leaf disease’ and ‘leaf soft disease’ in arecanut plantations, Venugopal P, a farmer from Puttur taluk, said elected representatives should have been the voice of the farmers as Dakshina Kannada district’s economy is dependent on arecanut crops. Their role in finding a solution to this was not on the expected lines.

Talking about the reports of illegal arecanut imports, he said farmers would be affected if the illegal imports are not stopped.

Mahesh Puchhappady, an arecanut grower from Sullia taluk, said enterprises related to value-added arecanut products have not come up in the region, though there is a good scope for them. Elected representatives should have taken steps to promote such industries.

Hardly anyone talked about the different candidates and their prospects as people discussed local infrastructure and their concerns about the lack of progress in the road projects.

Avil D’Souza, who works in a private firm in Bantwal, said though some interior roads in the district have been developed, the highway project traversing through his taluk is progressing at a slower pace.

Shreemukha S, an e-commerce entrepreneur from Sullia, said that affordable internet has been a big help for people like him in smaller towns such as Sullia. He could not have imagined starting a venture if he had to depend on high data charges.

Stating that his business involves transporting goods from one place to another, Shreemukha said the physical connectivity has also improved to achieve this. However, he said, public sector undertakings such as India Post and BSNL that could have provided better services for the above two sectors are not doing well now.