BJP forms 50-member team to begin election work in Karnataka

By, New Delhi
Apr 02, 2023 05:22 AM IST

The meeting had a single point agenda -- to assign key persons who would help boost the party’s prospects in the state.

Just 24 hours after the election schedule was announced for the Karnataka assembly polls, the top leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) summoned 50 of its lawmakers from across the country for an urgent meeting.

BJP national general secretary BL Santhosh. (PTI)
BJP national general secretary BL Santhosh. (PTI)

The meeting chaired by the organisation’s general secretary BL Santhosh and the man assigned as in-charge of the state, Union education minister Dharmendra Pradhan, had a single point agenda -- to assign key persons who would help boost the party’s prospects in the state.

“It was a virtual meeting and we were told that we had to reach Karnataka as soon as possible, maybe even in the next 72 hours,’’ one of the persons who attended the meeting said on condition of anonymity. These MPs and MLAs were told that the party has identified 115 of the 224-strong assembly to focus on. “Each of us would handle 2-3 seats. We’ve been told that these 115 seats are in the B category, which means that they are tough but possible winning seats,’’ the person said.

Among the 50 assigned are Union minister of state for finance Pankaj Chaudhary, Bihar MLA Sanjeev Chaurasia, Uttar Pradesh MLA Satish Dwivedi, Andhra Pradesh’s P Sudhakar Reddy, and MPs Ramesh Bidhuri, Nishikant Dubey and Sanjay Bhatia. Most of them are experienced at being parachuted to various states before elections.

“I have been to UP, Uttarakhand, Himachal, in total nine states before,’’ said Bidhuri. While he was waiting for instructions about where to head, he was clear in what his work would be. “We have to go there and talk to our workers. That’s the main thing, to motivate them and to make sure that there is proper spread of our ideas among the voters,’’ he said.

About whether the Delhi MP will face any challenges due to language in Karnataka, he said: “Every BJP worker across the country knows Hindi.’’

Jharkhand MP Nishikant Dubey said he was yet to be assigned for the Karnataka election.

While Karnataka is the only southern state to have a BJP government, this election is proving to be a challenge for the ruling party. With BS Yedyurappa, the former chief minister no longer leading the party in the state, there is fear of a backlash within the Lingayat community, which he represents. Chief minister BS Bommai, who replaced him in 2021, has had a tough time handling attacks by the opposition led by the Congress. The extent of the party’s challenge is apparent by the fact that it is yet to announce the candidates, while the Congress did so last week.

The main messaging for all those heading to Karnataka will be simple -- tell voters to put their faith in Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The focus on what the party likes to call double-engine development enabled by BJP at the Centre and the state has been their trump card in Uttarakhand and Goa last year, where the party achieved easy victories.

“The big advantage of sending someone from Delhi or Bihar or UP is that they are seen as an eminent person for campaigns. For instance, say there is a rebel in one constituency. If this Delhi leader goes to the rebel leaders house just to have tea, the rebel leader may appreciate that the party cares about him or her. They can then be persuaded to withdraw so that the party’s official candidate’s chances aren’t spoilt,’’ a second party functionary said, wishing to remain anonymous.

However, the strategy of flying in extra hands doesn’t always work. Cajoling rebel leaders didn’t help in Himachal Pradesh, for instance, and was the biggest factor in the party’s loss in December last year. In West Bengal, too, the BJP flooding the state with top leaders who were Hindi speakers led to the Trinamool Congress successfully attacking them with the “outsiders” tag.

Karnataka will vote on May 10 and results will be announced on May 13.

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    Sunetra Choudhury is the National Political Editor of the Hindustan Times. With over two decades of experience in print and television, she has authored Black Warrant (Roli,2019), Behind Bars: Prison Tales of India’s Most Famous (Roli,2017) and Braking News (Hachette, 2010). Sunetra is the recipient of the Red Ink award in journalism in 2016 and Mary Morgan Hewett award in 2018.

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