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Karnataka Cong sweats in poll heat

With no fewer than five opinion polls commissioned by media organisations ticking off the Congress in Karnataka, there are clear signs of panic in the party.
PTI | By Srinivasa Prasad, Bangalore
PUBLISHED ON APR 19, 2004 02:22 AM IST

With no fewer than five opinion polls commissioned by media organisations ticking off the Congress in Karnataka, there are clear signs of panic in the party.

"You can't always sit in a glass house and think that you are safe and perhaps we are not," a confidante of chief minister S.M. Krishna told HT. "All the polls can't be wrong."

Krishna's campaign managers are hoping for another U-turn in the party's fortunes. A couple of months ago, the party had a clear advantage over its main rival, the BJP. An opinion poll commissioned by the party supported its position of strength. Then, by all accounts, the BJP's feel-good blitz swung many away from the Congress.

Krishna is now hoping against hope that there will be another flip-flop before the first phase of polling on April 20.

Not taking any chances, the party is raining promises on voters. Sample a few: Rs 500 per month to unemployed youth, rice at Rs 3 a kg for the poor, loans for farmers at 4 per cent interest, free textbooks and uniforms for poor students, funds for madarsas, reservations for SC/STs in the private sector, free saris to poor women.

State party president Janardhan Poojary, denying the Congress was desperate, said the party meant business. "If returned to power, the first Cabinet meeting will approve all these schemes," he said.

Meanwhile, an upbeat BJP has been proclaiming that Karnataka will be its "gateway to the South". But even if its fortunes are on the rise, the BJP's rudderless local leadership can hardly take any credit. It has to thank the A.B. Vajpayee factor and anti-incumbency against Krishna which has been caused by drought and inactive ministers.

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