Karnataka is not untouched by the nationalistic fervour being whipped up by the ruling BJP at the Centre on the Pulwama terror attack and the Balakot air strikes. For sure, an increasing number of people are speaking about national security and to this extent, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other leaders have managed to force the issue onto the centre stage of public discourse.
But how much impact this will have on the electorate is a question on which the jury is still out. A dipstick survey in Bengaluru and surrounding rural pockets does show people are concerned over the security of the nation. Two elderly villagers on the Hosur Highway to Tamil Nadu were worried of a war with Pakistan but were happy that Modi gave out a strong reply.
On the surface, the BJP does appear to have gained ground, but scratch the surface and it is a different story.
The educated middle class and especially the youth have begun questioning and is not liking how the military and air force action was being used for petty politics by the team of the Prime Minister. Seeking votes donning army greens and giving a speech with CRPF martyrs in the background are being seen as deliberate attempts to play politics, piggy riding on sacrifices of the jawans.
A majority of the youths, National Herald spoke to, were particularly concerned over this and said that services and their achievement must not be used for political gains. Slowly but surely, this impression is gaining ground in cities, where people do thank the services personnel for their bravery and valour but question the politicians for trying to milk the air strikes for votes.
Whether the BJP can sustain the momentum on its nationalism pitch is what remains to be seen. Also, much would also depend on how it all plays out and if there are more skirmishes and how the government deals with them.
Clearly, the BJP game was given away by former Karnataka Chief Minister and BJP state unit president BS Yeddyurappa when he said that the airstrikes and Pulwama will help the party to win 22 out of the 28 Lok Sabha seats. He has drawn huge flak for his insensitive attempt to play politics over the sacrifices of jawans.
Sandeep Shastri, pro-VC of Jain University, Bangalore, felt that the recent events had given the BJP a leg up for the present, but much would depend on the ability of the BJP to keep the issue alive till the polling. Whether the BJP can sustain the momentum on its nationalism pitch is what remains to be seen. Also, much would also depend on how it all plays out and if there are more skirmishes and how the government deals with them. And then there are questions being raised over the strikes and what they achieved.
“So, it will essentially depend on how the Opposition counters the government on the events across the border and mounts its campaign. More important, it will depend on how successfully it brings other issues to the fore,” Prof Shastri said.
But in the context of Karnataka, it will depend on how the Congress and the Janata Dal (S) coalition works on the ground.
Congress spokesperson Brijesh Kalappa was confident that once polls were announced, the real issues of unemployment, farm distress would come to the fore. “Last time, Modi had come with promise but this time around, his mis-governance is there for all to see,” he said