Modi Fails to Make Wave in Karnataka Campaign: BJP Unnerved by Deft Moves by Siddaramaiah

Notwithstanding the BJP leaders and cadres feeling elated, Modi’s speeches have failed to motivate the average Kannadiga. People expected him to talk about the economic development of the state, but he failed to provide a clear roadmap for the development of the agrarian sector or a mechanism to help farmers. Here’s a report, for Different Truths. 

The Karnataka BJP leaders have pinned their hopes on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ensure the defeat of the Congress. But the speeches of Modi have not enthused them much. Though they love his taunts and acerbic comments about Rahul, in private they question whether it would stimulate voters.

Notwithstanding the BJP leaders and cadres feeling elated, Modi’s speeches have failed to motivate the average Kannadiga. People expected him to talk about the economic development of the state, but he failed to provide a clear roadmap for the development of the agrarian sector or a mechanism to help farmers. Modi tried to appropriate the gains of the state government on the ground that the farmers in Karnataka were getting a fair price for their crops due to the Centre’s initiatives.

At least three developments have unnerved the BJP as electioneering started picking up. First, how to neutralise the Lingayat gains of chief minister Siddaramaiah; second, overcoming the corrupt image of chief ministerial candidate B S Yeddyurappa; and the third, acute bickering inside the party. Ignoring the Dalit issues has of course been a major question.

The Dalit leaders and activists, even of the BJP, are perturbed at the incident of scrawling of the abbreviations “SC” (Scheduled Caste) or “ST” (Scheduled Tribe) on the chests of Dalit youths willing to join the Madhya Pradesh police during a medical examination in a government hospital on Saturday. BJP insiders said they had very little to say in defence and so had chosen to sidestep the issue.

 Besides the recent conversion of more than 300 Dalits in Una in Gujarat, where they were beaten by the gaurakshaks some time back, has created consternation in the party. The BJP fears these back-to-back incidents will have a devastating impact in Karnataka, where Dalits constitute the single largest chunk of voters (around 18 percent). Even the senior state BJP leaders admit that the party may not Dalit votes as expected. They are also worried that the anti-incumbency factor has not affected the Siddaramaiah government.

Though Yeddyurappa had undertaken an outreach programme by eating at Dalit homes it has no takers. While people still look at him as a corrupt politician, his position has turned further vulnerable, with party president Amit Shah asking Yeddyurappa not to accompany him or the prime minister at the rallies. Shah also asked the Reddy brothers to keep away from the national leaders, especially him and the prime minister.

In fact, Yeddyurappa’s supporters are quite angry with Amit Shah for his attitude and approach towards their leader. But they prefer to maintain silence and wait for May 15, the day result is announced. If the party fails to win, Yeddyurappa loyalists would like to confront Amit Shah. They say Shah had given seven tickets to the Reddy brothers and their friends. Now he was trying to maintain the façade of being honest and distancing from them. Yeddyurappa said, “the directions that I have been given is to travel separately. This is the wish of the Prime Minister and Amit Shah. Over the last two days, I on my own have visited six constituencies a day.”

Some analysts look at Siddaramaiah as the new avatar of veteran Congress leader Devaraja Urs, who had put an end to upper caste Lingayat and Vokkaliga hegemony in Karnataka politics in the early 1970s. In the present scenario, Siddaramaiah has also put a check on the upper castes and promoted the cause of Dalits. His step to provide the minority status to Lingayats has created a new social order.

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah is confident of returning to power. Having gained minority status, the Lingayat are turning towards Congress. There could be a polarization of more than 10 percent of Lingayat votes towards the ruling party and this proportion is expected to move further to 20-25 percent, though Onkareshwar Swamiji the pontiff of Avargol Mutt, contradicts it. “The proposal for a separate minority religion status is nothing else but a ploy to divide the religion for ulterior purposes,” he said. However, most of the pontiffs and followers are happy with the decision and hold that this would go long way in improving the condition of the community. Some openly say that the chief minister has favoured them and therefore they must reciprocate. The BJP has been decrying Siddaramaiah‘s move of granting minority status to Lingayats.

The importance of Lingayat factor could be understood from the simple fact that while in London Modi tried to reach out to Kannadigas by garlanding the statue of Karnataka’s 12th century social reformer Basavanna.

Arun Srivastava
©IPA Service 

Photo from the Internet

 

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