Bengaluru: Buoyed by back-to-back rallies and roadshows across the State by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Karnataka BJP leaders are confident that the party will cross the magic 113 seats mark to gain a simple majority in the 224-seat Assembly.
Public campaign for the May 10 poll ended on Monday. Modi during the last leg of his campaign for the last three days championed the cause of the party and lifted the mood of party candidates and the workers alike.
With a slogan “Ee Bariya Nirdhara ; BJP Bahumatada Sarkara,’’ (`This time the decision is BJP majority government’) the Prime Minister said that Karnataka’s decision is already made by the people who “showered me with flowers extending their affection and blessings.’’
The slogan given by Modi gains significance as BJP has never got a full majority government in Karnataka.
Although the party formed the government twice in Karnataka it fell short of getting the magic number of 113 seats.
Including the seven days tour in the State in the last 10 days, the Prime Minister addressed more than 25 rallies and roadshows in the run up to the Assembly polls.
Senior party leaders in Karnataka who didn’t wish to be named said that before the Prime Minister’s tours began in Karnataka, the party’s prospects were very bleak. “We were a distant second. Now we are ahead of the Congress,’’ the leader said.
Similar sentiment was echoed by BJP national president Jagat Prakash Nadda who said that the Prime Minister’s roadshows and rallies have helped the party win an additional 15 seats.
*Modi seen as Lingayat leader
Former chief minister BS Yediyurappa is still an undisputed Lingayat leader. His decision to quit electoral politics had given a great opportunity for the Congress to win back the dominant caste in Karnataka.
With different factions in the Congress pulling in opposite directions, the party lost an opportunity to project a Lingayat face. In fact, the Congress leaders didn’t make any attempt to woo Lingayats. Instead, the party waited for Lingayats to come and knock on its doors.
On the other hand, a section of Lingayat leaders have started seeing Modi as a Lingayat leader. “For us, Modi is the leader. We will vote for him,’’ was a common response this correspondent got in the Lingayat dominant Kitturu Karnataka. This has not only improved BJP’s prospects but also been successful in arresting migration of Lingayats to the Congress.
It is only the second time in Karnataka that Lingayats have considered someone outside the caste as their leader. Late Ramakrishna Hegde was the first.
*Congress on back foot
The Prime Minister’s frequent visits to Karnataka have put the Congress party on the back foot. The grand old party has been unable to quell Modi’s effect besides increased infighting after the final round of ticket distribution, particularly in Kittur Karnataka region has come as a major setback.
On the other hand, an aggressive BJP managed to cover the ground even before the poll dates were announced.
Initially Congress appears to have had an edge over the BJP in the Lingayat dominant region of Kittur Karnataka. Once the party released names of its candidates, the situation changed leaving the party a divided house. The Prime Minister acted as a catalyst tilting the scales in favour of the BJP.
*Shettar Savadi factor
Congress’s plans to gain sympathy by accommodating BJP discards – former chief minister Jagadish Shettar and former deputy chief minister Laxman Savadi – too failed to gain any traction.
During an interaction with this journalist a majority of Lingayats in Kittur Karnataka districts of Dharwad, Haveri, Gadag, Belagavi and Haveri expressed anger at the former chief minister asking him why he sacrificed the ideology for the sake of an MLA ticket.
Leave alone gaining any sympathy of Lingayats, Shettar is now depending on the Congress to win. The Congress is stretching its resources to make Shettar win after a battery of top BJP leaders including Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Nadda and others visited Hubballi while Modi himself addressed a rally in neighbouring Haveri.
On the penultimate day of public campaign ended on Monday, the Congress brought its top leader, an ailing Sonia Gandhi to Hubballi to campaign for Shettar.
Meanwhile a series of self-goals by the Congress in the last leg of the poll campaign has worked to the advantage of the BJP. These include comments of former chief minister Siddaramaiah’s that Lingayat chief ministers are corrupt, hurling abuses at the Prime Minister or the party’s manifesto attempting a false narrative on the Bajrang Dal by comparing it to a banned Popular Front of India which has terror links.