Karnataka campaign ends with BJP electoral machine in high gear, Congress relying on polling arithmetic

Compare the way Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah chose to leave their last impression in minds of voters on the concluding day of the Karnataka campaign to Congress president Rahul Gandhi and Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and you get a real insight into the differing electoral strategies of the two parties.

File image of BJP chief Amit Shah. PTI

File image of BJP chief Amit Shah. PTI

The way leadership of rival parties and individual candidates devise their strategy on last day of campaigning is always of some significance in minds of undecided voters. The occasion is also used to boost morale of the cadre so that they work with vigour to bring voters from their homes to the polling booths.

The contrast between the thought process and poll preparedness of the Modi-Shah combine compared to the Rahul-Sonia-led Congress, at least from the way they planned their respective shows on Thursday in the final hours of campaigning was on full display.

Rahul’s idea was to hold a press conference in Bengaluru and have almost entire Congress leadership in Karnataka, including Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, and leader of party in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge seated at the podium. Which was fine. By holding a press conference, leaders tend to focus on a singular message. It thus becomes very important for the leader concerned to weigh his words and decide on the kind of punch or thrust he wants to deliver through the media to the people.

But Rahul talked endlessly of China, Pakistan, Russia and Rafale deal, and said “foreign policy has been completely decimated across the board by prime minister Modi”. After a while, when a question was posed on a separate issue, the Congress president returned to the China topic in even greater detail.

“I am very passionate about China issue...” Rahul said. Twice. He concluded his prolonged monologue on China by saying “there is a disaster that has been created about foreign policy”. When Rahul was queried about Modi calling him naamdaar and arrogant, and asked about the challenge the prime minister issued to him: To speak for 15 minutes about his party's achievements in Karnataka without referring to any papers, Rahul unveiled a Gautam Buddha analogy and added in the same breath, “I attract anger from prime minister Modi because he views me as a threat”.

Modi, in comparison, used his NaMo app on Thursday morning to engage directly with his party's Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Class workers and morcha workers spread all across Karnataka. He was focussed on telling them how much BJP did for these communities and why more of them should vote for the party on 12 May.

Much of public narrative was built around Dalits, SCs, STs, and OBCs and Modi thought it appropriate to address workers from these communities and boost their morale ahead of polling. Shah had different plans: Arrive in Badami, and hold a mega road show: The biggest ever by any party in these elections.

Badami is one of two constituencies from where Siddaramaiah is contesting elections. Pitted against him is Sreeramulu, a Dalit perceived to be close to the Reddy brothers and Lok Sabha MP from Bellary. The visuals showing Shah flanked by Sreeramulu on one side and BJP’s chief ministerial candidate Yedyurappa on the other can impress viewers. The mammoth road show gave the impression that Siddaramaiah is on a difficult turf and if the BJP is able to convey that message to rest of Karnataka, the battle is half won.

Rahul later had outdoor engagements even as Shah held a press conference, but events in the first half of the day conveyed the message that parties wanted to send the electorate. It seems the BJP's electoral war machine is far more organised and better prepared in terms of strategy. The Congress would be hoping it got its arithmetic right.

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Updated Date: May 10, 2018 20:29:30 IST

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