By Rahil Nora Chopra
It’s now evident that after the results of the Karnataka Assembly elections are declared that the results, the opposition unity will take itself to the next level. The Chief Minister of Bihar, Nitish Kumar, is working hard and visiting places around the country to meet the opposition leaders of many states in order to unite and bring them on one platform against the BJP. CM Nitish Kumar and his deputy Tejashwi Yadav have held separate meetings with Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav amid ongoing efforts to unite the opposition parties ahead of the 2024.Kejriwal, Banerjee and Yadav seem to be in the same opposition camp, one which seriously seeks to work collectively to oust the BJP from power. While Nitish Kumar has been tasked to reach out to parties, which carry a grudge against the Congress, on the other hand, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge will talk to parties friendly with the Congress. Nitish and Kharge seem to have agreed upon the strategy that there will be no criteria that would exclude any non-BJP force and every single opposition party will be approached. The Congress appears to have stepped back to allow Nitish to take the lead to ensure that the traditional anti-Congressism doesn’t become a barrier. In this context, a national-level meeting of like-minded opposition parties to plan strategy for the next general elections in 2024 will be held after Karnataka assembly elections results are out.
CONGRESS’ KARNATAKA CAMPAIGN KEEPS FOCUS ON BJP’S MISGOVERNANCE
The Congress leadership has put everything into the Karnataka election campaign and is trying to do everything possible to galvanise the pre-poll anti-incumbency realities into a grand victory. While former chief minister Siddaramaiah and state chief D.K. Shivakumar have made a likable combination at the local level, they have received a big boost in campaigning with the central leaders, including Mallikarjun Kharge, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, dedicating themselves with full determination to winning over the key southern state. Shivakumar is expected to cover 70 constituencies, while Siddaramaiah will campaign in about 60 seats. Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said: “Kharge will cover 40 seats and Gandhi will tour at least 30 seats.” Kharge campaign has strategically included holding of news conferences and public rallies daily in different districts of the state, and is closely monitoring the electioneering on a regular basis, having appointed five regional observers to strengthen the communication feedback system. Rahul Gandhi enjoys tremendous goodwill in the state after the Bharat Jodo Yatra; he has earned people’s love affection and sympathy after being disqualified from Parliament over the flimsy conviction in the Modi surname defamation case. Moreover, Priyanka Gandhi has connected well with women voters and has drawn huge crowds in her road shows. She made an appeal to the people to stand with the Congress party. Addressing a poll rally in Sringeri of Chikkamagaluru district, Priyanka Gandhi stated, “In 1978, when Indira ji (late ex-PM Indira Gandhi, her grandmother) came to Chikkamagaluru, it was a period of struggle for her. In that tough time, people of Chikkamagaluru stood with her. Today also there is a period of struggle for Rahul ji (Rahul Gandhi) and my family. We have full confidence that people of the country will stand with us,” she said. While the Congress focus on ‘40 per cent commission sarkara’ has struck a chord with the voters, its welfare guarantees — including Rs 3,000 every month for two years to unemployed youths, Rs 2,000 to housewives and 200 units of free electricity, under Anna Bhagya scheme the provision of free 10kg rice every month for people below poverty line (BPL), etc. — in the state bolstered its campaign. What came as a bonus is the unseemly controversy about Nandini milk cooperatives and a massive exodus from the BJP, with senior leaders such as former chief minister Jagdish Shettar and deputy chief minister Laxman Savdi joining the Congress. It is clear that the Congress is steering the governance debate on the electoral table, while keeping issues related to communal polarisation at bay.
SAMAJWADI PARTY ANNOUNCES WELFARE SCHEMES AHEAD OF MUNICIPAL POLLS
All major political parties of Uttar Pradesh are coming up for important urban body polls scheduled in the first week of next month. In an attempt to galvanise the party cadres and to bring back the politics of social justice, the Samajwadi Party has instructed the party leaders, especially the backward class cell, to organise village-level meetings to acquaint people about the need for caste census for inclusive growth. Samajwadi Party Ambedkar Vahini members are in contact with the Dalit population in villages with the sole aim of winning over the members of scheduled caste and scheduled tribes. Now, Samajwadi Party has launched a booklet of appeal to voters, making a series of promises, such as an urban employment guarantee scheme on the lines of MGNREGS, opening Samajwadi canteens and grocery stores, yoga centres and making gaushalas self-sufficient. The party has also promised and advocated a Nagar Bharti Samman to reward good works in urban areas. The urban local body polls are scheduled on May 4 and May 11 and the counting of votes will be held on May 13. These polls are significant insofar as acting as a testing ground for parties before the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
WILL AJIT PAWAR BE KING-MAKER, OR KING-SLAYER? WE’LL KNOW IN MAY
The buzz in Maharashtra is that Ajit Pawar has been trying to steer a rebellion against his party, the National Congress Party, and will likely break away with his supporters for allies with the BJP. Speculations of a split in the NCP have been put to rest both by the BJP and the NCP, but behind the curtains, these are still prevalent and have not been denied. Now, Sanjay Raut (spokesperson of the Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray faction of Shiv Sena) claimed that the death warrant of the Shinde-led government has already been written and it will last only for 15 to 20 days. Raut also claimed that Sharad Pawar, with whom Raut is very close, shared with him that there has been pressure on individuals to break ranks. Meanwhile, posters have been put up in Maharashtra’s Chembur area in support of Ajit Pawar as the Chief Minister of the state. The posters claim that if Pawar becomes the chief minister, it will provide justice to the protesting villagers. Another factor that kept the rumour mills running is that the Supreme Court judgment over a plea to disqualify 16 Shiv Sena MLAs, including Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, is expected in May. An adverse decision against the MLAs may lead to a situation where the BJP-Sena government may seek additional support, which is where Ajit Pawar and his loyal MLAs may come into play. However, Shinde-led Shiv Sena has said that it would not be a part of the government in Maharashtra if Ajit Pawar joined the BJP with a group of NCP MLAs.
CONGRESS ROPES IN SUNIL KANUGOLU TO WIN KARNATAKA, MP OVER
Both BJP and Congress have initiated preparations to revive back to power in Madhya Pradesh. While BJP is aiming for the Chhindwara Lok Sabha seat and all its seven assembly segments in the central state, on the other hand, the Congress has emphasized more on Bundelkhand, Malwa and Vindhya regions. The Congress is eyeing women voters and former CM Kamal Nath has announced that if his party formed the government again in Madhya Pradesh in the state assembly election scheduled later this year, a financial help of Rs. 18,000 per year would be given to women, and it would be largest ‘women empowerment scheme of the world’. Congress has roped in poll strategist Sunil Kanugolu, a former associate of Prashant Kishor, to help it shape its high-stakes MP campaign. Kanugolu is currently also spearheading the Congress’ campaign in Karnataka, where Assembly polls will be held on May 10. After that election concludes, he will focus on Madhya Pradesh and may set up his office in the state.
BREAK FROM KARNATAKA CAMPAIGN: PRIYANKA DONS CHEF’S HAT IN MYSORE
Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra took an off from her busy election campaign in poll-bound Karnataka, where she had visited one of the most famous icons of Mysore’s cultural landscape: Mylari Restaurant, renowned for its unique dosa. After tasting the delicious idli and dosa, Vadra expressed her desire to learn the tricks of making dosa. The restaurant owner readily agreed and took her to the kitchen. While she was successful in pouring batter on the tawa to make a set of dosas and spreading it to the right shape, at least two of them were charred after she apparently failed to flip them on time, leading to bursts of laughter by people around her. Priyanka also took time to have a talk with the children at the restaurant. (IPA Service)