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BJP relying on pinch hitter Modi as Congress batting on stronger wicket in Karnataka

Lakshmana Venkat Kuchi Top national political leaders – Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, BJP president JP Nadda, and former Congress president Rahul Gandhi are heating up the poll fever in Karnataka assembly elections, polling for which will be held on May 10. While Prime Minister Modi is scheduled to commence his […]

Edited By : Lakshmana | Updated: Apr 26, 2023 12:39 IST
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Karnataka Assembly Polls

Lakshmana Venkat Kuchi

Top national political leaders – Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, BJP president JP Nadda, and former Congress president Rahul Gandhi are heating up the poll fever in Karnataka assembly elections, polling for which will be held on May 10.

While Prime Minister Modi is scheduled to commence his carpet-bombing campaign rallies next week, Amit Shah and Rahul Gandhi have begun their ‘pinch hitting’ in the slog overs from Sunday, April 23, with well-attended road shows, and today too their public meetings and rallies have increased the political temperature.

Interestingly, the Congress is sticking to local issues in the campaign whereas the BJP is trying its best to turn the poll into a Modi-centric one, relying on his image and appeal, and reminding the people of having a double-engine government for progress and prosperity. Already, BJP President Nadda is under severe attack from the opposition, including Janata Dal (Secular), for threatening the Karnataka voters that if they don’t elect the BJP, they would be deprived of the “blessings of Modi ji”.

Look at the campaign pitches of the respective parties.

Union Home Minister Shah said that the fight was between Modi’s development politics versus Congress’s appeasement politics and reminded the people of the benefits of the double engine Sarkar.  There is no place for casteists, and dynastic political parties and people are going to entrust Modi ji with their destiny, Shah said. He claimed that the road shows he held over Sunday and today were extremely successful and this was reason enough for his confidence that the BJP will form a government with a comfortable majority.

Amit Shah said “Under Modi’s leadership a double-engine government will be formed. Modi and our CM Bommai have worked for Karnataka’s progress.”

BJP president JP Nadda is scheduled to make extensive campaigning – road shows, meetings, and rallies – over the next few days starting Tuesday, and several other star campaigners too are already crisscrossing the state.

If the ruling party is thus engaged, the principal challenger and opposition Congress has been running a surcharged, and successful campaign for over the past four months, and the pace and energy of its campaign have not only been maintained but also it has been given an extra punch with the entry of Rahul Gandhi. In fact, Rahul Gandhi had spent well over a fortnight in Karnataka, during his Bharat Jodo Yatra, and is only picking up where he left it – in terms of mass contact and hard-hitting content in his speeches targeting the BJP, at the central level.

But as a strategy, Rahul Gandhi too has trained his guns on local issues, notably corruption – PayCM and 40 percent sarakar – and the list of scams of the Basavaraj Bommai government and steering clear of turning the poll into a personality contest between him and Prime Minister Modi. This is exactly what the BJP would want to turn the election into, but clearly, the Congress has learnt a thing or two in the Assembly poll fight from RJD’s Tejaswini Yadav who single-handedly took on the might of the BJP focusing on unemployment and development as his campaign theme.

The Congress leaders are also presenting a united face, and the presence of its president Mallikarjun Kharge, a local lad and son of the soil in Karnataka, is only helping the Congress. Moreover, Congress has also managed to cleverly turn even an innocuous cooperative movement decision – cooperation between Nandini (local milk brand) and Amul – into a huge Kannadiga pride issue and gaining immense traction on this issue. Rahul Gandhi does not forget to mention this high up in his talking points as he launches into a searing attack against the BJP.

In his case, added advantage is that he is gaining the sympathy of the masses over his conviction and disqualification as an MP and the videos of his handing over the government accommodation in Delhi to the Estate Department officials are only adding to the sympathy factor.

After raising local issues and those of price rise, unemployment and local corruption, Rahul Gandhi does not forget to reiterate how the Adanis and Ambanis gained from the government largesse as against the plight of the farmers and small industrialists to get loans from the banks. The banks continue to be aggressive and harass the common man, Rahul Gandhi lamented and appealed for giving help to the farmers and small businessmen.

“Today Adani and Ambani have thousands of crores in bank loans, and they easily get loans when they go to the banks. Their loans are easily waved off but not for poor farmers. So, I am saying there must be parity. If you wave off loans of big industrialists, then wave off loans of farmers, too,” Rahul Gandhi said.

Now, both the rallies of the BJP and the Congress are well attended, but where the Congress appears to have an edge is in the enthusiasm of the people and the response to the Congress leaders on their campaign trail.

The Congress workers are also buoyed because of this response, and since the electoral history of Karnataka is also against the ruling BJP.

The Congress has managed to tap into the anti-incumbency sentiments and public anger over local corruption with an innovative, effective, and catchy campaign PayCM and 40% Sarakara. It is this that Brand Modi will have to beat and overcome as he comes for the pinch-hitting in the very last slog overs – from April 29.

The Congress, meanwhile, is working on expanding the 4 percent lead it has got over the BJP to increase its seat tally and is focusing purely on local issues. The Congress strategy is to focus on two key elements – one is to detail the four schemes Congress will launch and the second element is to highlight the alleged failures, misgovernance and corruption of the Bommai government.

The Congress talking points include the four promises – Grihalakshmi, (is to give) ₹2,000 per month to every woman in the family, Griha Jyoti (of) 200 units of free electricity per month to every family, Anna Bhagya, or 10 kg rice to every poor family every month and Yuva Nidhi, ₹3,000 per month to every graduate and ₹1,500 per month to every diploma holder in Karnataka for 2 years.

The schemes, aiming to tackle price rise, signal a shift from the party’s policy push for rights-based legislation to the creation of individual beneficiaries, and Gandhi’s speech promised a deadline — the first cabinet meeting should the party come to power.

The BJP on the other hand is relying to some extent on polarising issues that lead to consolidation of the Hindu vote behind it. But its overall theme is that of ensuring a double engine Sarkar for ensuring the development and growth of Karnataka.

It is clear that unless Prime Minister Narendra Modi does heavy lifting during his campaign, the BJP will find it difficult to get re-elected in Karnataka.

First published on: Apr 25, 2023 06:31 PM IST

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