With the elections due in five months, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is putting in a lot of efforts in the ongoing winter session of the Karnataka legislature to create optics on the performance of the Basavaraj Bommai-led government.
Starting with the unveiling of the Veer Savarkar portrait in the legislative assembly to the legislation for increasing reservation for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, the BJP has also got a member of the legislative council to propose a private member bill to ban halal certifying agencies.
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A senior BJP minister told News18 that while internal reports have shown the party will be able to win 90-100 seats as of today, they would use the session to strengthen their support in the Lingayat -dominant region in the state that has traditionally backed the party.
“Belgavi has 18 assembly seats and plays a crucial role in electoral politics,” explained the North Karnataka BJP leader on the significance of the developments at the Belgavi session.
IMPORTANT FOR BOTH BJP AND CONGRESS
In the run-up to the 2023 assembly elections, the Congress and the BJP have been swimming in troubled waters. The BJP in Karnataka is faced with a barrage of allegations of corruption, scams and infighting and weak governance. The opposition Congress has been trying to resolve the tug-of-war for power between their two senior leaders Siddaramaiah and D K Shivakumar, on who will carry the party’s baton while shoring up the confidence of the voters who may have been dejected with them.
The session is important for both the Congress and the BJP, says political analyst Sandeep Shastri.
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“If the BJP comes out in poor light and the opposition can turn the tables on the government, it would be a major embarrassment for them. You would see more belligerence on the part of the BJP in challenging the Congress. The BJP will want to portray a picture that it is muscular, electorally ready and confident,” he said.
One of the major moves made by the government has been the tabling of The Karnataka Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Reservation of Seats in Educational Institutions and Appointments or posts in the services under the state) Bill, 2022. This bill introduced by the Bommai government replaced the ordinance that was promulgated in October this year and increases reservation for Scheduled Castes (from 15% to 17%) and Scheduled Tribes (from 3% to 7%).
“This is one attempt to try and get the SC/ST votes in their favour and make it an election issue. They also know that it would be challenged in the courts, but they can use it as part of their election campaign,” explained Shastri.
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While the Congress has questioned the legality of the breach of the 50% quota cap, the 56% quota can be justified if the Karnataka government can demonstrate the exceptional circumstances under which it was taken.
Prof Ravivarma Kumar, former chairman of the Karnataka Backward Classes Commission and a former advocate general, told News18 that if a special case is made out, then it is “definitely permissible to sustain the 56% quantum".
Although the BJP continues to remain upbeat with the thumping victory in Gujarat, it also seems to be dealing with multiple hurdles, including allegations of corruption, internal strife between senior leaders and the pressure of whether Karnataka will give them another chance, especially in a state that has historically not repeated any party.
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“There is a bit of discontent among the karyakartas. But the BJP is a cadre-based party and it will not take much time before we infuse confidence in them. The work has already begun at the booth level to bring back the ‘josh’,” said a senior BJP leader from the Dakshin Kannada region. This is the region where the party workers had protested and physically tried to overturn the state party president’s car after a karyakarta was murdered some months ago.
While the state party unit has been banking on the Modi-Shah magic to make its way into the hearts and votes of Kannadigas, they believe that the formula worked out by the central leadership, which has helped the BJP come to power in several states, will also work in Karnataka.
CAN THEY DO IT?
Being in power since 2014 at the Centre, the BJP’s central leadership has strategically planned and overturned governments to come to power.
Can the BJP fight anti-incumbency in the southern state? If it does, it would be a first for the BJP.
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“We will come back to power after winning the 2023 assembly elections with a handsome victory. All governments face trials and tribulations and ours is no different. Yet we are confident that our party workers and voters will ensure we retain power in a state that is considered the gateway for the BJP in the south,” a confident senior BJP leader told News18.
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