Bengaluru: As the Sun sets over the Arabian Sea across the mighty Western Ghats, the Assembly election campaign has come to an end in Karnataka. Described by many as never seen before, the campaign was led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress president Rahul Gandhi, chief minister Siddaramaiah and the JD(S) supremo HD Deve Gowda.
Several local and national issues dominated the campaign. Congress party, defending its full five-year term under Siddaramaiah, termed the Modi-led BJP campaign as vicious, cheap, divisive, communal and full of hype.
The BJP, which is pulling out all stops to wrest the southern state from the Congress, has called the ruling party’s campaign directionless and divisive. The third player, JDS, has used all its firepower to attack Siddaramaiah. The Chief Minister has accused JD(S) of having a tacit understanding with the BJP.
Siddaramaiah himself admits that the history is against him as no incumbent chief minister was re-elected since 1985. In a tweet, he said, “People of Karnataka will answer that question on May 12. And they will do so decisively. I am often told history is against us as no sitting government in Karnataka has been re-elected in a long time. But we are here to create history and not to obey it”.
While Siddaramaiah led the Congress campaign, for the first time the BJP campaign was led by PM Modi, and not by its chief ministerial candidate BS Yeddyurappa.
Even though Rahul Gandhi has campaigned for over 100 days across the state, addressing almost 100 small and big public meetings, the chief minister was the face of the Congress campaign.
Gandhi created history by visiting all 30 districts in the state. His carefully planned tour was aimed at an image makeover. The temple run which started in Gujarat continued during Karnataka polls, as part of larger exercise undertaken by the Congress at setting the stage for 2019.
Rahul visited almost 30 temples and Lingayat Mutts, deftly playing the Hindu card. Interestingly, Siddaramaiah who normally avoids rituals also visited several temples and mutts with him claiming he is a better Hindu than the BJP.
The BJP campaign led by Yeddyurappa gained momentum after PM Modi’s blitzkrieg across the state. Modi addressed 21 rallies in just 10 days and used Namo App to interact with targeted captive audience party candidates and workers.
Modi made corruption a big issue in his campaign and the Congress countered him with mining mafia Reddys to Nirav Modi. Modi has made the dynasty politics of the Nehru – Gandhi family a big issue in the polls.
Another star campaigner for the BJP in Karnataka polls was UP CM Yogi Adityanath. The saffron robed chief of Gorakhnath Peeth raked up Tipu Jayanthi, Ram Janmabhumi and Hindutva during the poll campaign.
Yeddyurappa, who played second fiddle to party’s national leaders, is hopeful of a win. He told News18 that he would take oath on 17th of this month. Siddaramaiah has dismissed him as a day dreamer.
For the first time in Karnataka elections, primacy of Kannada, separate state flag, no to Hindi imposition, separate religion status to Lingayats have also become poll issues. Whether they translate into votes for the Congress will be decided on the voting day.
The BJP, on the other hand, is hoping that Modi will ensure their victory. The JD(S) is hoping to play the role of kingmaker if it’s a hung house.
The pre-poll surveys are also divided on who will win. Some have predicted a clear majority for the Congress, some predict a hung house with Congress emerging as the single largest party, while others have predicted a win for the BJP.
Noted political scientist Dr. Sandeep Shastri feels that Congress is still ahead and may get the clear majority or at least emerge as the single largest party. “In the last 10 days there has been a swing in favour of the Congress and a 6% lead is huge,” he said.
The voting takes place for 223 seats on Saturday. The election to Jayanagara assembly seat has been cancelled due to the death of BJP candidate and sitting MLA B N Vijayakumar.
The chief minister Siddaramaiah is contesting from two seats – Chamundeshwari and Badami. Yeddyurappa is seeking eight term from Shikaripura in Shimoga. The JDS state chief H D Kumaraswamy is also contesting from two seats – Ramanagara and Channapatna. Over five crore voters are eligible to exercise their franchise.