Battle for Karnataka elections heats up as Modi, Rahul to launch campaigns

By declaring Siddaramaiah as the chief ministerial candidate, the Congress high command has not only silenced his detractors but also put on him the onus of retaining power in Karnataka.

india Updated: Feb 02, 2018 23:47 IST
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Karnataka Election 2018,Karnataka Assembly Election,Narendra Modi
The Congress had declared in May last year chief minister K Siddaramaiah its face for the 2018 polls. (PTI File Photo)

The Congress has drawn up an elaborate campaign strategy for Karnataka and divided the state into four zones to reach out to the voters in an “effective and efficient” way.

The poll battle is expected to intensify with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi set to launch their respective campaigns. While Modi will visit Karnataka on February 4, Gandhi’s three-day tour of the state begins on February 10. The elections for the 224-member assembly are due in April-May this year.

A Congress leader, who is a member of the party’s campaign committee, said for “effective and efficient” canvassing, the state has been divided into Hyderabad-Karnataka, Bombay-Karnataka, Mysore and Bangalore regions. The leader, who did not want to be named, said Gandhi would campaign in each zone for three consecutive days in the next few weeks. He will start from Hyderabad-Karnataka region.

In a rare move, the Congress had declared in May last year chief minister K Siddaramaiah its face for the 2018 polls. The party does not name its chief ministerial candidates a year in advance.

Usually, the age-old practice in the Congress is to keep the leadership issue open and alive as there are several claimants for the chief minister’s post in a state, and let the elected legislators authorise the Congress high command to take a decision.

However, the party had in the past few years deviated from this practice in select cases when it named Captain Amarinder Singh as its face in Punjab, Virbhadra Singh in Himachal Pradesh, Tarun Gogoi in Assam and Harish Rawat in Uttarakhand.

By clearing the air about the chief ministerial candidate, the Congress high command has not only silenced Siddaramaiah’s detractors but also put on him the onus of retaining power in Karnataka, one of the five states and the only big state held by the party as of now. In the 2013 elections, the Congress had won 121 seats.

The Congress has also assigned each constituency to central and state office bearers for better poll management.

Gandhi has also tried to strike a fine balance between different castes in carrying out the organisational reshuffle last year though no Muslim leader could find a place in the top hierarchy.

Siddaramaiah is from the backward Kuruba community, the third largest caste in Karnataka after Lingayats and Vokaligas, the two upper castes that have dominated the state politics for decades now. While Lingayats constitute 17% of Karnataka’s 65 million population, Vokaligas account for 15% and Kurubas are 8-9%. The 13% Muslim population is a crucial factor in many constituencies.

The Congress is also in the process of drafting customised manifestos for each zone.

First Published: Feb 02, 2018 23:47 IST