Congress on an overdrive to retain Karnataka

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The hold of Congress over rural areas in Karnataka remains intact which will prove to be crucial in the upcoming elections.

The outcome of Gujarat elections has made two major political parties – Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – in Karnataka sit up and chalk out strategies to reach out to voters across the state. According to political analysts, Gujarat election results have clearly showcased the weaknesses and strengths of Congress and BJP in garnering votes. While the Congress ruled the roost in rural areas, the BJP strengthened its base in urban areas in Gujarat.

If the results of 2013 Karnataka Assembly elections are any indication, the scenario in 2018 elections is set to be on par with Gujarat election results. The BJP remained strong in urban areas in Karnataka while the Congress maintained its hold on rural areas.

According to Election Commission data, there are around 70 urban and 154 rural assembly constituencies in Karnataka. Almost half the urban constituencies (28) are in Bengaluru city and the rest are spread across seven city corporations — 43 city municipal councils, 65 town municipal councils and 92 town panchayats. Political analysts opine that unless Congress makes inroads into BJP’s vote bank in urban areas, it would be difficult for the Congress to form government on its own in 2018.

“The Congress with an eye on BJP’s urban vote bank has announced
a slew of measures and freebies”

With an eye on urban voters, Congress has announced a slew of measures and freebees. For instance, Siddaramaiah government has sanctioned ₹1,000 crore to take up white topping on 16,000 km arterial and sub-arterial roads in Bengaluru. To coincide with late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s birth centenary, the state government has opened Indira Canteens numbering 198 – one in each ward – in the city to provide breakfast for ₹5 and lunch or dinner for ₹10 to the less privileged people. On an average, three lakh people use this facility which is expected to be extended to districts and taluks in the state in the election year.

It has also decided to offer free bus passes for lakhs of workers of various garment factories most of which aresituated in Bommanahalli Assembly constituency on the outskirts of the city. It is represented by BJP MLA M Satish Reddy. The objective is to make a dent in the BJP’s vote bank in the next Assembly elections. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has been trying to implement one-lakh houses project for lower and middle-class families in Bengaluru.

The Congress leaders, under the guidance of All-India Congress Committee General Secretary KC Venugopal, have not only strengthened booth-level committees but also began door-to-door campaign. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has already undertaken tour of 124 Assembly constituencies represented by Congress legislators to explain the welfare schemes implemented by his government. On the other hand, Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president Dr G. Parameshwara, along with other prominent Congress leaders, has commenced tour of 100 Assembly constituencies represented by the BJP and the Janata Dal (S) legislators.

Many opine that Congress has many leaders apart from resources to sail through in the next Assembly elections. They recall how the Congress candidates won two by-polls – Nanjangud and Gundlupet – earlier this year despite all out efforts made by state BJP leaders to wrest them from ruling Congress. Nanjangud was represented by former minister V Srinivasa Prasad who quit Congress for dropping him from the Cabinet and contested on a BJP ticket while Congress candidate Gita Mahadeva Prasad retained the seat for the party. The by-election for Gundlupet was necessitated due to the death of her husband Mahadeva Prasad who was a minister in the Siddaramaiah Cabinet.

Congress seems to be in the lead to retain power in the state given the ground realities.