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BJP's 'coup' in K'taka

The BJP is trying hard to wrest power for the first time in Karnataka by highlighting its success in the Centre and the failures of the state's ruling Congress.
PTI | By Fakir Balaji, Indo-Asian News Service, Bangalore
UPDATED ON APR 23, 2004 09:12 PM IST

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is trying hard to wrest power for the first time in Karnataka by juxtaposing the feel good vs feel bad factors - highlighting its success in the Centre and the failures of the state's ruling Congress.

The BJP is working at all kinds of strategies to break the stronghold of the Congress and Chief Minister SM Krishna in the state, which went to the polls in the first phase on April 20 and will have the second round on April 26 to elect in all 28 MPs and 224 MLAs.

In a bid to topple the Congress, just like it did in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan in the assembly polls last December, the BJP is using multiple platforms highlighting the achievements of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government since 1998 and the failures of the Krishna government in the state.

"We have been telling the people of Karnataka that it is the turn of the BJP to govern the state on the basis of its performance at the centre under the dynamic leadership of Vajpayee," said state unit president Ananth Kumar.

Kumar told IANS: "We are appealing to the discerning electorate to give us an opportunity to serve them as they had seen enough of how the Congress and the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) in turn had ruined the state over the last decade."

After the BJP lost out in 1999 by aligning with the then Janata Dal that faced a strong anti-incumbency and bowed out of office, it had to be content with only 42 legislators in the 224 member assembly.

The electoral reverses were so severe that the BJP remained almost paralysed for the next four years, with a dozen of its legislators quitting the party midway and suffering defeats in every election and by-poll in the assembly, panchayat and local civic bodies.

The BJP, nevertheless, tried to remain at the centrestage of state politics by attacking the Congress government on every issue. The party's performance at the centre, as part of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, came as a much- needed shot in the arm for its state leaders.

The marginalisation of the Janata Dal after its vertical split, leading to the formation of the JD-S by former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda, enabled the BJP to emerge as a force to reckon with and lock horns with the Congress this election.

When the NDA opted for early parliamentary polls, a resurgent BJP dared Krishna to go in for simultaneous polls to cash in on the trend in its favour and the anti-incumbency factor against the Congress.

It is a theme that is repeated incessantly in Kumar's speeches as he campaigns in the state.

"You have tried the Congress and the Janata parties for alternative terms, electing or rejecting one for the other on the basis of their performance or lack of it," he said, stressing on how the state's development was neglected.

"This time, why not give the BJP a chance. The party has set out to transform India into a superpower. We have demonstrated our capabilities and commitment to carry on the development process, including the inter-linking of rivers in a decade," Kumar repeated at every campaign speech.

"Unlike our rival parties who are obsessed with a combination of caste, community and local factors in fielding candidates, we have been focusing on the need to elect the BJP for the state and the centre to ensure parallel development and good governance," asserted Kumar.

The party has been buoyed with former chief minister S Bangarappa joining it with hundreds of his followers from Shimoga and other districts. It is also counting upon the support of the backward classes to which he belongs.

In the northern and coastal regions of the state, where it does have a presence, the BJP is wooing the dominant Lingayats by striking a poll alliance with the remnants of the Janata Dal who have been followers of the late Ramakrishna Hegde.

"We are confident of winning the support of the people who hold Hegde and Vajpayee in high esteem," said the BJP leader.

In southern Karnataka, it has let its ally JD-U field candidates since it has a negligible influence in the region where the Congress and the JD-S are fighting for the "secular" votes.

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