When the vigorous campaign for Karnataka assembly elections drew to a close on May 10, the consensus of most opinion polls and senior journalists is that the Congress remained in pole position. Even Bharatiya Janata Party and Janata Dal (Secular) workers are quietly admitting this. A very significant reason attributed for this is the failure of the BJP’s polarisation card in Karnataka.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi also acknowledged this, when he addressed a press conference in Bengaluru along with Siddaramaiah on the final day of the election campaign. In response to a question from National Herald, Rahul Gandhi said “Modi ji tried very hard to divert our and voters’ attention, but our goal post is Karnataka and the development of Karnataka and this is the guarantee of our victory. The entire country is looking at Karnataka and Prime Minister Modi is panicked. That’s why he has brought his entire team from across the country here. We have a deep faith in Karnataka, its culture and its people. Our work and our vision for the state is speaking for us. I am happy that all the efforts to spread communal spite could not succeed in Karnataka.”
Congress President Rahul Gandhi told National Herald “The entire country is looking at Karnataka and Prime Minister Modi is panicked. That’s why he has brought his entire team from across the country here. I am happy that all the efforts to spread communal spite could not succeed in Karnataka”
According to an estimate, only 24 out of the total 224 seats are communally sensitive, and these are in Hubbali, Mangaluru and Udupi regions. A number of BJP chief ministers—Yogi Adityanath of Uttar Pradesh, Shivraj Singh Chouhan of Madhya Pradesh and Raman Singh of Chhattisgarh—made the rounds of these communally sensitive areas in Karavalli and Malnad. Yogi Adityanath belongs to the Gorakhnath peeth and Vokkaligas of Karnataka, who belong to Gowda community, too link themselves with the Nath sect. The BJP thus hopes that Yogi Adityanath will break into the strong base of JD(S). Beyond these seats, the BJP has not been able to communally polarise the people, despite applying their best efforts.
A large number of dummy candidates have been fielded to reduce the vote share of BJP’s opponents, particularly in Muslim majority areas. For instance, Raushan Baig is the Congress candidate from Shivaji Nagar constituency in Bengaluru. There are 17 more Muslim candidates contesting from this area, including one from JD(S). Another conundrum is the All India Mahila Empowerment Party, a new party led by women from marginalised communities, which is the fourth-largest contender in these elections, with enough funds to put up no less than 176 candidates.
BJP’s media cell in-charge Shantaram told National Herald that the BJP is appealing for votes in Karnataka to bring about a change and against the killings of Hindus. He claimed the Congress will be adversely affected by the decision of accepting Lingayats’ demand to be declared a separate religion.
Many commentators, including former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and even Shatrughan Sinha, an MP from Modi’s own party, disapproved of Modi’s personal attacks on Rahul Gandhi and other Congress leaders, which they said was not in keeping with the dignity of the post he holds
Of the three main political players in the Karnataka elections, the Janata Dal Secular (JD(S) appears to be in far last place. Confusion reigns among JD(S) workers, after party chief HD Deve Gowda said the party will lose in Varuna and Krishnaraja, and state chief and Gowda’s son HD Kumaraswamy was reportedly heard instructing party workers to defeat the party’s official candidate in one seat, because he was the choice of Deve Gowda! Befuddled JD(S) workers are now trying to support BJP in some seats, while the BJP supporters and spokesperson are ignoring them, while hoping that JD(S) will wrest a few seats away from Congress. CM Siddaramaiah is laughing to himself while JD(S) and BJP workers tie themselves up in knots over who to support, their own or each other’s candidates, in pockets of Old Mysuru.
The body language of the two dominant campaigners for Congress, Rahul Gandhi and Siddaramaiah, showed confidence and positivity throughout the Karnataka election campaign. On the contrary, the body language of many of BJP leaders betrayed duress and tension and their speeches were extremely aggressive and full of personal attacks. The most aggressive speeches were that of Prime Minister Modi. Many commentators, including former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and even Shatrughan Sinha, an MP from Modi’s own party, disapproved of Modi’s personal attacks on Rahul Gandhi and other Congress leaders, which they said was not in keeping with the dignity of the post he holds. This caused pain even to BJP supporters. Akshar, an M.Tech in Bengaluru, is one such young man. He said “The youths like us have been PM Modi’s supporters, although when the BJP leaders speak in a regressive manner, we feel bad. But listening to PM Modi’s speeches in Karnataka, we felt pained for the first time. He was not speaking like a prime minister. It doesn’t suit him to talk in such a petty manner.”
Development activist and architect Tara said the speeches and visits of Amit Shah and PM Modi have worsened the image of the BJP in Karnataka.
Karnataka votes tomorrow, May 12.