Karnataka polls: Advantage BJP as Congress looks set to console itself with another 'moral victory'

With Modi hitting the Karnataka campaign trail with an aggressive no-holds-barred attack on Rahul Gandhi and the Karnataka government, the slog overs have suddenly become more exciting

Tuhin A Sinha May 02, 2018 15:25:50 IST

With Prime Minister Narendra Modi hitting the Karnataka campaign trail with an aggressive no-holds-barred attack on Rahul Gandhi and the Karnataka government, the slog overs have suddenly become more exciting. I have always maintained that in a state election, the Congress' chances are inversely proportional to Rahul's presence in the campaign. The best example is the Punjab elections of last year.

Captain Amarinder Singh could not have pulled off a victory had Rahul been active in the campaign. In Karnataka this time, the visuals of the Congress president disrespecting Vande Mataram or his inability to pronounce the name of Lingayat sage Basaveshwara has not gone done well with the masses. Modi's campaign blitzkrieg thus is very timely. What it also achieves is a strategic shift from local issues to the character of the two national parties. BJP, with its deliverance record on rural electrification and Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana has a clear advantage here.

Karnataka polls Advantage BJP as Congress looks set to console itself with another moral victory

Representational image. AFP

Second, for all his support base, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah is seen as a mischievous leader, who can resort to petty divisive politics to stay in power. That, in fact, is also true of the Congress character. Siddaramaiah’s desperation thus to push for a separate flag for Karnataka and his attempts to withdraw pending criminal cases of communal violence and rioting filed against certain sections, are viewed with contempt.

Third, the Lingayat card seems to have backfired on the Congress. BJP president Amit Shah has got enormous support from the Lingayat mutts. Moreover, a majority of the Lingayat community does not seem to favour the demands of a thin minority. Also, the Congress' hasty last-minute attempt to play the Lingayat card, coupled with its brazen minority appeasement, is quietly leading to a consolidation of Hindu votes across the state against it.

Fourth, one need not reiterate the abysmal law and order track record of the Siddaramaiah government. The shocking visuals of Congress MLA NA Haris' son's exploits at a police station or of another MLA Byrathi Basavraj pouring petrol over a government office and threatening to burn it, are fresh in public memory. Here, the BJP could have gained a clear advantage by not fielding any candidate with a criminal past. Even so, the sentiment on the ground, is to vote out Siddaramaiah’s goonda raj.

Finally, the JD(S) this time, is on a much weaker wicket than what some of the poll surveys would have us believe. The JD(S) rose from 28 seats in 2008 to 40 in 2013. However, in the past five years, the party hasn’t done anything to expand its base. Rather, in the present situation, it is seen as an unnecessary vote-cutter. According to ground inputs, the JD(S) might actually slip to as low as 15 to 20 seats. The JD(S) votes will shift to the BJP as both are fighting the same foe.

The Karnataka elections have entered an exciting phase where both parties will now up the ante. While Modi will lead by example, one shouldn't be too surprised if Rahul ducks for cover and lets Siddaramaiah take the lead. The Congress looks set to score another 'moral victory' in Karnataka.

Tuhin Sinha is an author and young BJP leader

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