The best campaigner of the BJP launched the political campaign for Karnataka on Sunday as Congress points to Gujarat in retort
Since August last year, leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party in Karnataka have been campaigning on all the points that their party president Amit Shah had told them. It is well accepted in BJP circles that they have been rather ineffective in carrying out the party chief’s instructions with conviction.
But party workers realised on Sunday evening that the Shah strategy to defeat the Siddaramaiah-led Congress party in the April-May Assembly elections can be articulated, most effectively, only by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Modi practically launched the party’s campaign with a blistering attack on the Congress government by labelling it as a “10% commission sarkar’’ to drive home the point that there was no scheme or programme in which a cut was not taken ranging, in his words, from “Rs 250 crores to Rs 2.5 crores.”
The “10% commission sarkar” should ring a bell for readers in Tamil Nadu because that was the campaign against the then Chief Minister Jayalalithaa. That campaign before the 1996 elections ensured her defeat and 19 years later sent her to prison.
“That is the image of the Congress government,” Modi told an audience of an estimated three lakhs at the Bangalore Palace grounds. He substantiated his charge with the controversial decision of the government to put up a steel bridge on the road to the international airport. The proposal was finally dropped in the wake of a public outcry.
His next target was another allegation that the BJP has been making. That 22 of its workers have been killed because of the “appeasement politics” indulged in by the Congress government. In other words, meaning that the government was soft on Muslims and not pursuing cases as it does against Hindus.
“There is a discussion happening everywhere about the ease of doing business but in Karnataka, it is the ease of doing murder that is happening. The BJP is trying to take the country forward and the state government is taking the state backwards. That is way in which BJP workers are being killed,” Modi said while asking the people to wipe out the Congress and with it, violence from the state.
But the Congress has countered this charge saying that only nine of the 22 alleged by the BJP have a communal angle. “The Prime Minister should not make such statements or call us a 10% government without giving any proof to back this allegation. In all the cases, the perpetrators had been arrested,’’ G Parameshwara, state Congress president, said.
AICC general secretary BK Hariprasad, however, had a different take on Modi’s speech. “The Prime Minister has failed to tell the nation how Jay Shah made Rs 80 crore in a year. He talks of Karnataka, but in his model state (of Gujarat) an affidavit was filed before the Supreme Court on the number of fake encounters that had taken place,” Hariprasaid said.
“Last year alone, Uttar Pradesh has reported 900 fake encounters. Six rapes happen daily in Haryana. Before he talks of Karnataka, let him look at the law and order situation in the BJP-ruled states. Law and order has definitely not collapsed in Karnataka,” he added.
Interestingly, the response time of the Congress to rebut the BJP appears to have reduced considerably. One of the reasons could be the possible impact of Modi on the audience.
Modi may not create the euphoria that brought him to power in 2014, but as one Congress party leader put it (on condition of anonymity) – “Modi still commands at least 5-10% of the votes and even that figure would matter to the Congress party in this election.”
This Assembly election is critical for both the BJP and the Congress for multiple reasons. But the foremost among them, at least, to the Congress is that the BJP should not be able to win one of the last major states that it is ruling.