By Arun Srivastava
Just a couple of days ahead of the Karnataka assembly polls the BJP and RSS leadership is keeping fingers crossed. Though publicly the leaders are exuding confidence of a clean sweep, getting around 110 seats, in private they seem to lack conviction.
They agree that the Narendra Modi magic was not really working in Karnataka. Some of them even question the wisdom of the Modi aides in providing the wrong inputs for his public speeches. Though Modi drew huge crowds, it is not clear as to what extent his speeches have motivated the people to vote for the BJP candidates. It is indeed a tough task to predict the final outcome based on the turn out of the audience. Siddaramaiah’s meetings have also been well attended.
No doubt the BJP is on a strong turf from the point of view of campaigning. Besides Modi it has many star orators while Congress has only two prominent faces: Rahul Gandhi and Siddaramaiah himself. But significantly, these two have proved to be a match for Modi. This is borne out of the fact that at all the rallies Modi has been targetting both. In fact, Modi has been using the names and images of old Congress leaders to decry the two. For instance, Modi accused the Congress of not respecting Nijlingappa.
The party leaders are optimistic of Modi changing the rules of engagement. Post 2014, all BJP campaigns have revolved around the persona of Modi. In Karnataka too, they have pinned their hopes on Modi. But some people hold the view that this may not improve the situation and Karnataka will have a Gujarat like scene.
Nevertheless, Congress is undaunted by Modi’s histrionics. “I have been looking forward to the PM’s thundering speeches on corruption,” said Siddaramaiah sarcastically. “The fact remains Modi does not have the mass appeal he had in 2014. By touring the state, he can only provide a welcome distraction from the infighting in the state BJP and not more than that.”
People have not failed to recognise the dichotomy in Modi’s attitude towards Janardhana Reddy. Many believe that Modi and his government have now become the benefactor and protector of the Ballari gang that denuded Karnataka of its rich natural resources.
Modi did not put emphasis on development and focussed mostly on frivolous issues in his speeches. He was consistently targetting Rahul Gandhi. Everyone knows how a victory in Karnataka will rejuvenate Congress nationwide. For the BJP there is more at stake than mere opening the gate for southern India. A victory or defeat in Karnataka is bound to influence the battle of perceptions.
While pollsters and analysts have been busy discussing the caste and community factors, it is doubtful if the equations in the coastal Karnataka and the Muslim dominated region are getting due attention. In both these areas the Muslims and Dalits have rallied behind the Congress. The RSS has been spreading the view that the Lingayat are withdrawing support to Congress, but several mutts and religious heads have signalled that there has not been any shift.
Significantly the focus in recent months has been on the rise in atrocities against the Scheduled Castes under the Narendra Modi government. This has been a national phenomenon and it would be unrealistic for the BJP to expect that the Dalits of Karnataka would forget the treatment meted out to them at the national level. Some confusion on this issue was created by BSP chief Mayawati by aligning with the JD(S), which is seen to be closer to the BJP. (IPA Service)
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