Is the Congress Party in Karnataka in a position to repeat in the May 10 assembly polls what the West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee did in 2021 polls in her state ?. The question is being asked by the seasoned political observer in the state as the BJP leaders are engaged in a catfight during the campaign and the Prime Minister Narendra Modi is reported to be considering to reduce the number of poll rallies promised earlier?
In the high profile assembly elections in Bengal in 2021, the home minister Amit Shah consistently declared that the BJP would be getting a minimum 200 seats out of the total of 294, but the BJP was trounced by the TMC by getting 213 seats as against 77 of BJP. Now in Karnataka, Shah and PM Narendra Modi, in Bengal pattern have been constantly telling the electorate of the state that the BJP would be getting minimum150 seats out of the total of 224 seats. But the party activists are panicky at the recent surveys carried out by their own sponsored agencies predicting less than 80 seats for the saffrons.
Only in last February, PM Narendra Modi undertook a hurricane election campaign in the three states of north eastern India. But the same Modi is not too keen to campaign in Karnataka. Before the electoral battle in Karnataka was given a shape, the BJP had announced that Modi will focus on Karnataka as this state was crucial for its expansion in southern states and more than that coming back to power in Delhi for the third consecutive term. But this sudden change in the approach and stance of Modi has come as a major surprise for the state leaders.
In fact a section of the top state leaders blame Modi and Amit Shah for creation of this situation. Both of them do not know anything about the cultural traits of the state and have been thrusting their own desires and dictates. They have not been allowing space to the local leaders for manoeuvring the political situations and derivatives.
Though at the consistent goading of the state leaders, Modi has decided to hold some rallies and roadshows in the state, but the state party is not sure to what extent it would succeed in winning over the disillusioned voters. Earlier the central leadership had decided that PM would address some 20 rallies apart from road shows between April 28 and May 8. Though a state leader expressed hope “Modiji is also likely to camp in the state for a couple of days,” he was not sure when he is expected to arrive.
To begin with Modi will virtually interact with BJP workers on April 27. No doubt this is his first step to salvage the situation. The major task for him and Shah is to put the BJP house in order. But leaders confess the time is too short and the damage has already been done. They nevertheless are hopeful that the charisma of Modi will help the party. It is a bare fact that an organisation which is completely in disarray, rocked with simmering anti-incumbency, corruption charges, rebellion by leaders denied tickets and lack of an inspiring leader at the state level, it would be an arduous task for Modi to face Congress challenge.
The leaders also confess that visit of Modi may not boost the morale of the ground level cadres and leaders as they nurse a hurt feeling that Modi and Shah have been insulting their leaders and thrusting their agenda. Already 13 BJP MLAs and MLCs have quit the party. Former CM Jagdish Shettar, a stalwart and prominent Lingayat face has joined the Congress after being denied party ticket. What has been most important that he was supposed to be RSS face in the party. In a scenario where almost all the senior leaders have turned suspect as of being corrupt Gandhi fired the imagination of the people by asserting that since he was honest he was denied the ticket.
The BJP rank and file nurse the view that BJP is fighting against BJP. Congress has ceased to be the primary enemy of the BJP. They claim that Rahul Gandhi through his Bharat Jodo Yatra has succeeded in catching the imagination of the people and also comprehend their mind and mood. It is also alleged that Modi and Shah has been prodding their own brand of politics. The leaders reiterate the charges of Shettar that loyalty to a person (B L Santhosh) is more important than loyalty to the party. Former deputy chief minister Laxman Savadi, 63, another prominent Lingayat leader, also quit the BJP after he was denied a ticket. He is contesting the polls on a Congress ticket now.
Santhosh, who hails from Karnataka, is the protégé of Shah. It is alleged that he is primary responsible for the strife in the party unit. However the party sources confide that Modi during the next ten days would interact with around 50 lakh workers stationed at 58,112 polling booths. His primary focus is more than reaching out to the people, the focus should be on boosting the moral of the party cadres which has suffered immense shattering in the wake of desertions.
Meanwhile party sources claim that during his recent visit to Karnataka, Amit Shah apprehensive of major desertion from the party rank, has asked B S Yediyurappa to ensure that no more defection takes place and work hard to defeat his former colleagues who are contesting on Congress tickets. Source maintain that at least four BJP leaders from Lingayat community are also contesting on congress ticket. Shah is scared that the malaise of Karnataka may turn viral and affect the party in other states which will face election this year.
Modi calling KS Eshwarappa who is accused of popularizing the culture of 40 pe4r cent cut has not gone well with the ground level workers. While Modi expressed his happiness at his not quitting the party, it is perceived that this would check the rate of desertion. It is alleged that Belagavi-based contractor Santosh Patil who committed suicide had earlier written a letter to Modi that his aides had demanded 40 per cent commission for releasing payment. Following this Eshwarappa had to resign from the cabinet. Ironically the same leader has become the most favourite for Modi.
State BJP leaders feel that Shah has done more harm through his action and speeches to the state BJP than the allegation of the corruption charges against the state leaders. Ironically Shah came out with this statement on the day when the Supreme Court directed that the state government’s decision of scrapping quota for Muslims will not be implemented till May 9, Decision appears to be flawed, says top court. His remarks on Muslims has been of quite worry for the people. On the contrary Congress has pledged that the quota would be restored if it is voted to power. According to Shah “There was a religion based reservation of four per cent for Muslims. Without falling for the vote bank politics, the BJP government abolished the Muslim reservation”. Significantly after abolishing Muslim reservation, the BJP government increased the reservation for the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Vokkaligas and Lingayats.
State BJP in its election manifesto has promised to boost the industry and for this an “Inclusive Long-Term Vision of Development” is ready for carrying out a “30 District – 30 Hub” mega development plan. It will ensure equitable development across all regions of the state with each hub focusing on developing the industry in which it has a specific and comparative advantage. It is worth mentioning that some months back the industry and commerce associations of the state had complained of deteriorating condition of the infrastructure and need to improve the traffic flow. During the rainy season the IT sector has to suffer a lot as the work force finds it difficult to reach the destinations within the stipulated times. The power supply has not been uniform and tripping has become a regular feature.
The BJP which came to power in 2008 had also promised many lofty schemes and commitments to enhance the glory of Karnataka. But during the last five years of its rule it failed to meet the aspirations of the people and keep its promises. Like its top leader Modi, who blames Congress for any wrong committed even during his own rule, the BJP manifesto blamed the earlier Congress governments’ for incompetence, discriminatory policies, anti-farmer policies, neglect of law and order, harassment of honest officials and general indifference for the poor show of its government. The manifesto does not dwell upon the reasons why no equal development has taken place in the rural and urban areas.
The manifesto promises a lot to farmers, but it does not clarify why nearly 4000 farmers committed suicides during the last five years of its rule. Why it failed to develop agriculture? Strange enough it pledged a new government to raise Karnataka to the glory that it enjoyed under the Vijayanagara Empire, the rule of Kempegowda and the rule of the Mysore Maharajas. “We assure you that, over the next five years, we will achieve the goals and targets set out in our Manifesto, “Namma Karnatakakke Namma Vachana”.
The relative importance and value of the dalit and tribal votes could be understood from its message to allocate a special “Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar Tirtha Sthala Yatre Fund” to visit places associated with the life of Babasaheb Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar including Mhow, Nagpur, 26 Alipur Road (Delhi), Dadar and London. As if these assurances are not enough the party will release a white paper within 100 days of forming the government on the fiscal health of the state to show the financial mismanagement by the earlier Congress government. A Congress leader quipped they must also come out with similar paper on their own performance and how they institutionalized corruption. (IPA Service)