From Olive Green To Shades Of Saffron — Dakshina Kannada BJP Candidate Capt Brijesh Chowta On His Vision For Karnataka's Coast

Sharan Setty

Apr 03, 2024, 11:01 PM | Updated 11:01 PM IST

Captain Brijesh Chowta is fighting for the first time from Dakshina Kannada Lok Sabha constituency.
Captain Brijesh Chowta is fighting for the first time from Dakshina Kannada Lok Sabha constituency.

Captain Brijesh Chowta is the candidate for Dakshina Kannada Lok Sabha constituency, representing the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). As he gears up to file his nomination with a rally on foot on April 04, Thursday, he shares with Swarajya, his journey so far, and his vision for Dakshina Kannada. 

Here are excerpts from the interview with Swarajya's Sharan Setty —

Q: From this small town of Mangaluru to the Indian Army and back now seeking to be its Member of Parliament — tell us more about your journey.

A: I come from a very humble home and grew up in Farangipete. I studied at Milagres School and then went to college and completed my graduation from St. Aloysius College in Mangaluru with a Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree in 2002. 

It is here that my tryst with the olive green began — as an NCC cadet. I was judged the Best Cadet of Mangaluru University. In the year 2000, I also participated in the Republic Day Parade held in New Delhi and marching as a cadet in front of the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was a moment of great inspiration that nudged me to serve the nation. I had seen Vajpayee ji earlier when he visited Puttur in 1989 as the BJP's national president. The image of my uncle A. Jayaram Rai who was the first president of the Puttur Mandala of the BJP garlanding him is etched in my memory. 

I then wrote the UPSC Combined Defence Service Exam and joined the Officers Training Academy from where I passed out and joined the 7th Battalion — the 8 Gorkha Rifles of the Indian Army. Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw was someone I idolised. That's why I chose the Gorkha Regiment. From 2003 to 2011, I had an opportunity to serve in various areas across North and North Eastern parts of India and was part of counter-insurgency operations in Assam and Manipur.

I also feel proud to share that when I joined the army, our Raksha Mantri was also from Mangaluru — George Fernandes. His journey has been a huge inspiration for me and I look forward to commemorating his journey with a museum. Post my Short Service Commission stint, I did a management course from IIM Indore in 2011 after which I chose to join and serve the country through the BJP.

From then on, I have been privileged to be given various responsibilities of the BJP starting from serving as the District General Secretary of BJYM Dakshina Kannada (2013-2016), District General Secretary of BJP Dakshina Kannada (2016 to 2019), a member of the District Executive Committee member from 2019- 2023 and presently the State Secretary, BJP Karnataka since December 2023. 

And now when our Prime Minister decided to build his team in 2024, I have been chosen to be our party’s Lok Sabha candidate for Dakshina Kannada. It’s both a privilege and a mammoth responsibility. 

Q: Dakshina Kannada seems to be having a lot of expectations from whoever wins this election — irrespective of the party. Do you feel the pressure of the hot seat already? What is running on your mind as you head to file your nomination?

A: We are fortunate that we have such an active, informed and educated electorate. It only makes work easier as they become stakeholders in every aspect of representing this region. Dakshina Kannada has always been ahead of its times. Countless karyakartas and various senior leaders have given their blood and sweat to strengthen this Hindutva fortress.

This is why I feel privileged to be given this invaluable opportunity by our party and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to represent such an intelligent, intellectual and demanding electorate at this juncture — the Amrit Kaal of Bharat as envisioned by our PM Modiji. 

Q: It has been around a fortnight since you have been announced the candidate. How has your experience been so far? What has been your campaign strategy?

A: I have stated my vision statement right upon candidature announcement “Hindutvake Baddhate Abhivradhige Adyate” — we will prioritise development while staying rooted to our ideology — which is the crux of our PM Modi’s vision of Vikas Bhi Virasat Bhi

In this direction, I have been meeting karyakartas from across all Vidhan Sabha constituencies. We have had almost 20-hour schedules on some days meeting people from all walks of life even apart from the constituency tour. But at the end of the day, it feels like I am back in my Army days with our karyakartas — our foot soldiers determined to achieve this mission of #AbkiBaar400Paar. 

Q: What would you say are your key priorities — or your plans for Dakshina Kannada? If you win, what is it that you promise your voters? 

A: Development — sustainable, holistic and all-round development of our region without compromising on the cultural fabric or our traditional values. It is my dream to see Dakshina Kannada be number one in the state. We have the energy, the resources, the aspiration, the education, the entrepreneurial spirit and now with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of making Bharat among the top three economies of the world, I think we also have the best opportunity to realise all our dreams.

His Gujarat model of development, especially the coastal development efforts that he initiated as the Chief Minister — and very recently gave a mega push to with the launch of the economic corridor under the Gati Shakti scheme is something I wish we can emulate for our coast too. Infrastructure is key to investment, industry and enterprise and I would make every sincere effort that in the next five years we can be among the top Tier-2 cities in the country.

Connectivity is a crucial link in this entire effort and we need to ensure we fix the bottlenecks in this sector at the earliest. To begin with, the Mangalore Bangalore road and rail network enable shorter travel time and fix the issues we face on the Western Ghats, with due consideration – we need to ponder about the Subrahmanya-Sakaleshpura road on the lines of the year-round all-weather connectivity roads of our government has built on our border areas while preserving the eco-sanctity of our Western Ghats.

Our youth should not have to struggle to come home – as I am not oblivious to the difficulties they face — with flight rates being sky-high and road difficulties. Connectivity issues have also hampered our growth in the trade sector — and with various projects that are underway, we will focus on their timely completion. 

Investment — We have all grown up seeing generation after generation of entrepreneurs leave for the Gulf, Mumbai, and Bengaluru, but it’s time we turn that trend around. I wish those whose dreams were realised elsewhere come to build the ground for our next generation to realise them here itself — billion-dollar companies can be run from small towns like we have the instance of Sridhar Vembu of Zoho just to state one.

We have a lot of our young minds from Dakshina ​Kannada across the country and the world who are excelling in various fields like fin-tech for instance; we also have various industrialists and businessmen who trace their roots to our town and have made it big elsewhere — I wish that they set up base in our Dakshina Kannada and look forward to initiate conversation in this direction. 

Youth Empowerment — We have the space and scope for creating great sports infrastructure that will nurture our sporting talent — from those we have traditionally excelled at, like athletics, cricket and hockey to archery, shooting, and football among others. Our Kambala runners for instance every year are a reminder of how we can make it possible for them to replicate the unique success story of renowned Kambala runner “Flying Bunt” Anand Shetty. Our young boys especially from our rural pockets can be trained to excel at various such sports to bring glory to our Tulunad. 

Q: What is the first thing you would intend to do if you were to win and become the MP?

A: The first thing I wish to do is initiate a conversation with all stakeholders — our voters and get their list of ideas and things they wish we worked towards. I see on various social media platforms, people already have a ‘wish list’. All suggestions and advice are being compiled but I seek that we have an organised effort after elections for the same.  

There is a lot to be done and I humbly appeal to all to look at 2024 as an opportunity to turn problems into possibilities. “Dakshina Kannada — Ocean Of Possibilities” is how I wish we rebrand our wonderful region. For which the five-year plan should be crafted by all of us together and I shall be answerable at the end of five years to our people.

Sharan Setty (Sharan K A) is an Associate Editor at Swarajya. He tweets at @sharansetty2.

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