BANGALORE: With Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah stealing its caste card and its chief ministerial candidate B S Yeddyurappa and the Reddy brothers depriving it of the anti-corruption plank, the Bharatiya Janata Party is focusing on development to win the crucial Assembly elections on May 12.
The party’s star campaigner Prime Minister Narendra Modi had turned the fortunes in his party’s favour in Gujarat and Haryana by steering the campaign based on development. It will be the core theme of his campaign in the state. Modi will be hitting the campaign trail from May 1.
The Prime Minister had put forth the idearecently while interacting with candidates, office bearers and elected representatives in the state on his NaMo app. He urged them to follow a three-pronged agenda--development, fast-paced development and all-round development.
In what is seen as an indirect attack on Siddaramaiah’s divisive and identity politics, Modi came down heavily on those who contested elections using the issues of caste and religion.
The chief minister had upset BJP’s caste arithmetic by granting minority status to Lingayat community and aggressively pursuing his favourite AHINDA campaign. The BJP had taken a big risk of projecting tainted Yeddyurappa as its chief ministerial candidate to cash inon his roots in the community.
Though the BJP expects to benefit from the backlash that Congress may face from the other communities, the party strategists think that may not be enough to checkmate the division in Lingayat votes to be caused by the Siddaramaiah master stroke.
Corruption was a major issue raised by the BJP during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and in the assembly elections in several states subsequently but the party is unable to focus on it since its track record in Karnataka is not good.
Its attempt to raise the allegations levelled against Siddaramaiah and his family and some of his cabinet colleagues were rebuffed by the Congress citing the involvement of Yeddyurappa and several top leaders of the BJP in graft cases. The party went totally on the defensive on the issue of corruption after the party decided to give tickets to the tainted Reddy brothers.
The bank frauds to the tune of over Rs.54, 000 crores during the Modi dispensation is yet another powerful weapon in the Congress armoury against the BJP. The Congress has been using it effectively coining "Fleece, flee and fly” as new mantra of fraudster under the Modi-led government's watch.
This explains the BJP’s decision to focus on development. The party hopes to gain traction with the beginning of the campaign by the Prime Minister. Modi will start his campaign from Chamrajanagar district where he will address a public rally at 11.30 am on the May Day.
He will then head to Udupi, visit Krishna Mutt and take blessings of the Pejawar seer before addressing a rally at AGM College Ground in Udupi at 3pm. Later, he will fly to Chikkodi to address another rally. The Prime Minister is expected to address a total of around 20 rallies across the state.
The Congress has a slew of development and welfare measures initiated by the Siddaramaiah government to counter the BJP campaign. The chief minister has even termed the Karnataka development under his dispensation as a model for other states.
Siddaramaiah recently said that his development model was based on the principle of social inclusiveness to make Karnataka hunger-free and ensure health and housing for all. The party is heavily banking on the government populist schemes such as Indira Canteens, Maithri, Anila Bhagya, Mathrupoorna, free rice, Krishibhagya, education schemes and SC/ST loan waivers to support its claim.
However, the disquiet in the farming community is a source of concern for the Congress poll strategists. They are clueless how the community will vote since the state hadwitnessed 3515 farmer suicides from 2013 till 2017. The farmers constitute over 50 percent of the electorate.
The only consolation for the Congress is that the farm crisis is more acute in the BJP-ruled states. Fortunately, the state did not witness any farmer uprising as in several BJP-ruled states like Gujarat, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh. Moreover, none of the pre-poll surveys have indicated any serious anti-incumbency wave against the Siddaramaiah government.
Hence, political observers feel that the BJP may have to tread carefully to turn the table on the Congress. The elections to the 224-seat assembly are crucial for both the national parties as it will set the tone of the Lok Sabha elections early next year.
In the previous elections in 2013, the Congress had won 122 seats with a vote share of 36.59 per cent and the BJP won 40 seats with a 19.89 per cent vote share. The Deve Gowda-led JD (S) won as many seats as the BJP, with a vote share of 20.19 per cent.
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