Wilting Lotus: Is the BJP losing more seats where Modi–Shah campaigned?

The BJP's 9,125 rallies and 1,377 roadshows in Karnataka, including the dozens headlined by the PM and the Union home minister themselves, seem to have had the opposite of their intended effect.

PM Modi's road show in Bengaluru (left) (Photo Courtesy: BJP); Congress party workers celebrating election victory (right)
(NH Photo by Vipin)
PM Modi's road show in Bengaluru (left) (Photo Courtesy: BJP); Congress party workers celebrating election victory (right) (NH Photo by Vipin)

Ashlin Mathew

The incumbent Karnataka chief minister Basavaraju Bommai has conceded the Bharatiya Janata Party's defeat in the state elections today (Saturday).

Bommai, for the BJP, said, "In spite of a lot of efforts put in by [the Prime Minister] and BJP workers, we've not been able to make the mark. Once the full results come, we'll do a detailed analysis. We take this result in our stride to come back in [the] Lok Sabha elections."

The facts and especially the numbers bear out the truth of Bommai's statement with respect to a massive BJP efforts. The major highlight of the Karnataka election was touted to be the rallies that were being held by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah. According to the party's own figures, it has conducted 9,125 rallies and 1,377 roadshows in Karnataka. In a little over two weeks, Modi had held 42 rallies and Shah was part of 30 rallies.

Yet these have apparently had the opposite of the intended effect.

Of the 25 rallies helmed by Modi in 16 constituencies, BJP is trailing in 14 seats and won in only 2 of the seats on counting day, Saturday. This translates into a strike rate of just 12.5 per cent for the prime minister.

His second-in-command Shah’s strike rate has been 36.7%. Of the 30 rallies that Shah headed, the party is trailing in 19 of the seats and leading in only 11. This is as of 7 pm on May 13.

As his rallies began, Modi claimed that the Indian National Congress had abused him "91 times with different types of names" and decided to play the victim card. He insisted that the Congress had also maligned the dominant Lingayat community in Karnataka. Then, in the next few rallies, Modi attacked what he called the ‘shahi parivar’ (royal family) of the Congress, implying a parallel perhaps with the British monarchic and imperial rule in India.

Modi also extrapolated from the words of the Congress leaders to accuse them of openly advocating to "separate" Karnataka from India. He alleged that the Congress had said that they would protect Karnataka's 'sovereignty'.

Next, when the Congress manifesto promised action against 'individuals and organisations spreading hatred against communities on the grounds of caste and religion', Modi began chanting "Bajrangbali ki jai [victory to Bajrangbali, aka Hanuman]" at the end of his speeches in Karnataka—this was seen at Mulki and Ankola in coastal Karnataka and Bailhongal in Belagavi district. Attacking the Congress for proposing to ban the Bajrang Dal, Modi said that Congress was trying to lock up those who worship Lord Hanuman.

Though the state BJP outfit shied away from using the hijab issue and the narrative of Tipu Sultan-as-fanatical-Islamic-invader in Karnataka, perhaps having a more accurate read of the mood on the ground in their constituencies, the Prime Minister mentioned the Hindi film The Kerala Story in his speech at Ballari. Modi alleged that the Congress was trying to oppose the movie, which he claimed exposed the consequences of terrorism in a society, especially in a state like Kerala, which used to be a beautiful land of hardworking, talented and intellectual people.

Again, this tack seems to not have had the intended effect.

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Published: 13 May 2023, 2:42 PM