What are BJP's and Congress's strategy for Karnataka polls?
In about a month, Election Commission (EC) will announce the schedule for the Karnataka Assembly polls. As the battle draws close, BJP and Congress have rolled up their sleeves for the big fight. While Congress is battling to hold on to the largest state where it has power, BJP wants to revive its victory march. So, what will their strategies be? We elaborate.
BJP's strategy: Fighting corruption, Farmers' welfare and Hindutva
As usual, BJP is seeking votes in PM Modi's name. They are promoting his "clean" governance, as opposed to Siddaramaiah's "corrupt" regime. Further, state president Yeddyurappa is trying to win over farmers. On a November-January road show, he promised Rs. 1Lcr investment in irrigation projects and a Rs. 10,000cr fund for distressed farmers. Visits to temples and "martyred" BJP-workers' families underline its Hindutva imprint.
Congress strategy: Stressing on development, Energizing local unit, Soft Hindutva
Conversely, Congress has been stressing on Siddaramaiah's development and governance in the state with hits like pro-poor "Bhagya" schemes and "Indira Canteens." Further, learning from past mistakes, prominence is being given to state leaders and local cadre rather than relying on Congress chief Rahul Gandhi. But, in line with his Gujarat campaign, Rahul continues his temple yatras for appeasing the Hindu majority.
Congress's poll management directly challenges BJP's social-media blitzkrieg
BJP is known for grassroot-level planning, right from booth-level micromanagement to publicizing party's initiatives on WhatsApp groups. Congress is also using these tricks. It has divided the state into four zones, Hyderabad-Karnataka, Bombay-Karnataka, Mysore and Bangalore regions, for "efficient canvassing." Each state minister has been assigned different constituencies for better management. Their communication, social media, R&D departments have been instructed to tap local resources.
But, Congress faces anti-incumbency and some major governance misses
Though Siddaramaiah resurrected Kannada pride and earned the epithet "champion of social justice," there have been some misses. His government failed to make any progress in nabbing the murderers of rationalists MM Kalburgi and journalist Gauri Lankesh. Further, potholes, piling garbage, lack of basic infrastructure plague the state's major cities like Bengaluru. It also failed to act on its farm loan waiver promise.
Is BJP facing internal strife?
Meanwhile, BJP's decision to repose faith in its former CM candidate Yeddyurappa led to fissures. Senior leader KS Eshwarappa wants a lion's share of tickets for his coterie. Also, Yeddyurappa is fighting a lone battle against the hard-core Hindutva line taken by union ministers like Anant Kumar Hegde. Further, some others oppose him for the slew of corruption scandals during his CM-stint.
What does this imply?
Meanwhile, the third cog JD(S) is a formidable force especially among the crucial Vokkaliga community, mostly comprising farmers, making up 15-17% of the electorate. It will want to play the role of "kingmaker." Separately, since 1985, Karnataka has followed two patterns: it has voted for different parties at Centre and state and it hasn't re-elected any incumbent government. So, will Siddaramaiah buck the trend?