Think coastal Karnataka, and what comes to mind is a 300-km-long coastline with the Arabian sea on the West and the Western Ghats on the East, Goa to the North and Kerala to the South.

The three coastal districts of Dakshina Kannada, Udupi and Uttara Kannada are home to a crucial 19 seats.

Each district has a different political pattern. While Dakshina Kannada has shown a strong inclination towards the BJP in the last several elections, Udupi preferred Congress in most of its constituencies. Though the JD(S) had little effect in these two districts, it has been a force to reckon with in Uttara Kannada district.

The picture today

The BJP has put the onus on its cadre and its agenda of Hindutva to fetch it maximum seats from the region, while the Congress is focussing on the outgoing Siddaramaiah government’s popular programmes and its work at the constituency level to improve its performance.

Some rebel candidates, the JD(S) and parties such as the SDPI are likely to play spoilsport for the efforts of these two parties.

According to the 2011 census, the total population of three districts stood at 47.03 lakh (See table).

In past elections, caste was not a deciding factor in most constituencies.

Though Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts have Billavas, Bunts, Brahmins, Muslims, Christians and members of the fisherman community in good numbers, it is either the individual’s charisma or the cadre strength of the party that has determined the poll outcome in the districts.

Though the Vokkaligas have a presence in Uttara Kannada and Dakshina Kannada, caste is not much of a factor there.

Saffron surge

The Dakshina Kannada district, which has eight Assembly seats, has remained a saffron stronghold in the past several elections.

An analysis of election trends in the past four decades shows that the saffron surge in the district began after the 1994 election, following LK Advani’s rath yatra, the fall of the Babri mosque and the blasts and riots in Bombay that marked the first three years of the decade.

However, in the 2013 elections, the Congress gained the upper hand. It was helped by the polarisation following attacks on churches in 2008 and the split of the BJP’s votes after BS Yeddyurappa left to form the Karnataka Janata Pakshe. The Grand Old Party managed to win seven out of eight seats in 2013.

SDPI factor

The Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), which has a following among the Muslims, has been emerging as a notable player here.

A third of the 24 Assembly seats the SDPI contested in Karnataka in 2013 were from coastal Karnataka — seven in Dakshina Kannada and one in Udupi. The party was even successful in dislodging other players such as the JD(S) and the Left from the third position in three constituencies in Dakshina Kannada.

Udupi, however, has been seen favouring the Congress in past elections.

Where JD(S) holds sway

In Uttara Kannada, it is the JD(S) which is the preferred party. The JD(S) clinched two constituencies in 2008, and took the second spot in three seats in the 2013 polls. That year, with 23.35 per cent vote share, the JD(S) was ahead of the BJP (21.94 per cent) and behind the Congress (29.78 per cent).

Here, Yeddyurappa’s KJP was able to garner 6.32 per cent of votes that year. However, KJP did not make much of a difference in other two districts.


Coastal Karnataka has given the State two chief ministers — M Veerappa Moily and DV Sadananda Gowda. Moily represented the Karkala constituency, which is part of Udupi district now, for five times, from 1978 to 1994.

Union Minister Anantkumar Hegde represents Uttara Kannada in the Lok Sabha and has a good base here.

Karnataka ministers such as Ramanatha Rai in Bantwal of Dakshina Kannada, and RV Deshpande in Haliyal of Uttara Kannada are prominent names from the region. In fact, Deshpande represented Haliyal as a member of the Janata Party and the Janata Dal for two terms each and as a Congress MLA for three terms.

Talking points

Development has never been a dominant issue for political parties in the region. Major investments in sectors including information technology have remained unfulfilled for several years.

Instead, issues such as moral policing, communal murders, and attacks related to cow theft and slaughters have hogged the limelight.

Mangaluru made national headlines in January 2009, when youth at a pub were attacked by members of a fringe right-wing group.

The recent murders of members belonging to the Sangh Parivar and the SDPI have led to several incidents of communal disturbances in Dakshina Kannada and Uttara Kannada. In one of such incident in Uttara Kannada, the vehicle of the Inspector General of Police (Western Range) was set on fire.