Karnataka elections: Congress to go all guns blazing for retaining power in state

Congress president Rahul Gandhi and Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah wave to people during a rally in Koppal.(PTI File Photo)
Congress president Rahul Gandhi and Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah wave to people during a rally in Koppal.(PTI File Photo)
Updated on Feb 23, 2018 10:43 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By Aurangzeb Naqshbandi

The Congress is set to unleash all its firepower in Karnataka in a bid to retain power in the state, party insiders said.

The ruling party has adopted a multi-pronged strategy to prevent the BJP from realising its ‘Congress-mukt Bharat (Congress-free India)’ mission. Karnataka is the only big state ruled by the Congress, which is why the party is investing much prestige in the state, with its chief Rahul Gandhi set to begin the second leg of his campaign in the Bombay-Karnataka zone from Saturday, party leaders said.

The Congress has divided the state into four zones of Hyderabad-Karnataka, Bombay-Karnataka, Mysore and Bangalore regions for “effective and efficient” canvassing. Each state minister along with central and state office-bearers have been assigned different constituencies for better poll management.

The party has also instructed its communication, social media, research and data departments to focus on the elections and tap local resources. Research department head Rajeev Gowda and social media head Divya Spandana happen to be from Karnataka and are spending considerable time in the state.

Picking up from where he had left in Gujarat, Gandhi has continued with his temple visits in Karnataka undeterred by the charge that he is playing a ‘soft-Hindutva’ card to appease the majority community in an attempt to counter the BJP.

However, the Congress chief did visit the shrine of Khwaja Bande Nawaz, a 13th century Sufi saint, during his previous tour. But will it help the Congress? Political analysts maintain that there is a possibility that the strategy that the Congress devised in Gujarat might come in handy to an extent in Karnataka given that corruption and development issues were non-starters.

“Only Hindutva has a pan-Karnataka appeal and other subjects are region-specific and this is one issue which the BJP will try to exploit . It is imperative for the Congress to respond to that in some way,” said A Narayana, associate professor for public policy at the Bengaluru-based Azim Premji University.

The Congress is fighting the polls under the leadership of chief minister Siddaramaiah. By clearing the air about the CM face, Gandhi has not only silenced Siddaramaiah’s detractors but also put on him the onus of retaining power in Karnataka.

At every public rally, the Congress president has praised Siddaramaiah for his governance and commitment to work for all sections of the society. He even urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to learn how to govern from Siddaramaiah.

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.

The Congress is likely to release its manifesto next month, senior leader M Veerappa Moily said. “It will be a holistic document. The idea is to make it a people’s manifesto in letter and spirit,” he said.

The document is expected to highlight the Siddaramaiah government’s achievements and also specify the party’s vision for next five years. Congress leaders are holding deliberations with different segments of the society across the state to take their inputs in preparing the manifesto.

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