Rahul Gandhi and his temple visits, which began during the Gujarat elections, have continued even in poll-bound Karnataka. His soft Hindutva approach, mixed with hardline appeasement and division attempts by Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah, has been the Congress Party’s mantra in this election. No party since 1985 has defeated anti-incumbency in Karnataka, and this must be playing on the minds of either side. In the midst of it all, the bickering between the parties and the election fever have reached its pinnacle.
A few exit polls and surveys carried out recently have thrown a fragmented picture on the outcome of the polls. The one carried out recently by CHS voter and reported by the Financial Express have highlighted a hung assembly whereas a recent one carried out by the Congress itself gave the party a simple majority. In the advent of a mixed and indecisive scenario, a swing of even one percent vote share on either side may determine the fate of the results. Hence, the BJP has decided to unleash their ‘Brahmastra’ and field prime minister Modi in the fray. PM Modi has an ambitious campaign plan to sway what looks like an evenly poised election.
Prime minister Modi is expected to address a total of 25 rallies in Karnataka before the state hits the polls on May 12th. He is expected to visit every nook and corner of the state, and will be addressing at least one rally everyday when he is in the state.
Importantly, rallies by prime minister Modi have amassed large crowds and captured the state’s imagination. In the past, his rallies in Bangalore and Mysore have borne success, and even on Sundays, crowds had flocked to listen to him. In the event of a tight finish to a closely fought contest, it’s imperative for the party to have Narendra Modi on the ground. His presence may impact the polls with respect to the following points.
Firstly, prime minister Modi’s pan-India popularity has an effect even in Karnataka. This aspect may work to swing a crucial one or two percent votes in the state. It’s important to note that the politics of division cunningly played by chief minister Siddaramaiah with respect to the Lingayats, may divide voters and draw them away from the BJP. Here, prime minister Modi’s intervention may help in retaining a large chunk of voters, and may also influence the fence sitters. BJP’s chief ministerial nominee Yeddyruppa is in a tug of war, or a personality based contest, with Siddaramaiah. Prime minister Modi’s aura may provide him that necessary push to propel him to the driver’s seat.
Secondly, the use of such star campaigners has benefited the BJP immensely. Quite recently, it has been exhibited on two occasions. In the state of Gujarat, prime minister Modi’s rallies and his seaplane masterstroke helped the BJP retain the state. On the contrary, the Congress, aided by casteist leaders like Hardik Patel and Jignesh Mevani, were able to make a considerable dent in the BJP’s fortunes. Nevertheless, a timely intervention by the prime minister certainly helped the BJP romp home. A similar strategy was seen in Tripura, where chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s rallies helped in swinging voters, especially those belonging to his Nath community, towards the BJP. This helped the BJP form a government in the state for the first time.
And lastly, prime minister Modi is the right man to shed light on the achievements of his administration, to compare and contrast things with the lackluster performance of chief minister Siddaramaiah.
Corruption has been allegedly rampant, and the poor law and order situation , right from the murder of RSS workers to the release of PFI activists, have been consistently highlighted. From a communally charged and divisive agenda, prime minister Modi may give it a developmental theme and may even stress the need of having a BJP government in the state and at the centre for better coordination.
The Karnataka elections have a lot at stake, more so for the Congress since it’s the only major state they are governing apart from Punjab. If they lose Karnataka, it will not only provide a major impetus to the BJP in its mission to make a Congress-free India, but it would also set the momentum going for 2019. For the BJP, winning this state is necessary to break away from the shackles of the by-poll shocks in UP. Karnataka also is a gateway for the BJP in its southern expedition. Realizing the sheer importance of this make or break election, the much anticipated tour by prime minister Modi is likely to change the equation.