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Karnataka Elections: It's BJP's Centralised Strategy Versus Congress' Decentralisation

A quick look at Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah's Twitter timeline will give a glimpse of his strategy this election: to attack and to rebut.

Revathi Rajeevan | CNN-News18

Updated:April 2, 2018, 1:55 PM IST
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Karnataka Elections: It's BJP's Centralised Strategy Versus Congress' Decentralisation
File image of PM Narendra Modi and Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah.
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Bengaluru: A quick look at Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah's Twitter timeline will give a glimpse of his strategy this election: to attack and to rebut.

For more than a month now, the agenda it seems has been largely set by the Chief Minister, either by governmental actions or political strategies.

While giving a go-ahead for the state flag is seen as his attempt to capture the regional sentiment, giving minority religion status to the Lingayats is one that could cut straight through a vital sector of BJP voters. And therefore, the battle so far has seldom been between the various leaders of the Congress and the BJP. It has more often been the Chief Minister versus the Prime Minister followed by his party president and state leaders of the BJP.

The Congress says this is deliberate.

“There are only two chief ministers who have won against Modi. One is Nitish Kumar and the other is Arvind Kejriwal. Both of them set the agendas continuously. This itself is an indication who's winning. When CM is pitted against PM, it's obviously the CM who'll win because he's the embodiment of the local flavour. The PM can’t speak Kannada and is otherwise far removed from the state and its local flavours,” says Brijesh Kalappa, spokesperson, Congress.

As is expected during any election season, every allegation has seen a counter allegation and every hashtag a counter hashtag. When BS Yeddyurappa, BJP's state president, accuses Siddaramaiah of making the Lokayuktha toothless, the Chief Minister questions the Prime Minister on Lokpal. When the BJP trended “10% commission government” against Siddaramaiah, the latter trended “jailbird” against which Yeddyurappa had to approach the high court. It may seem like a series of mudslinging but the overall picture questions whether the BJP’s strategy is working in the state.

“We have divided the state into five parts and our national president is spending time in all these regions. What is Rahul Gandhi’s agenda? What is the agenda the Chief Minister has set other than dividing society on caste, religion, language? It is distortion by the media to think someone else is setting the agenda for us,” said S Prakash, spokesperson, BJP.

The pictures from the events of both the party presidents during their tour in the state tell a different story altogether. While Siddaramaiah gets his limelight even in the presence of party president Rahul Gandhi, Yeddyurappa is mostly quietly sitting beside his party president, victim to his gaffes.

“The whole process is one of presenting the image of a party that’s closer to the region as opposed to a party that’s very centralised and controlled from Delhi. There is certain decentralisation in Indian politics across the country. All over the country the regional sentiment is high. In Karnataka, the regional sentiment has been absorbed by the Congress.

The main difference here or in Punjab is they are allowing state leaders to lead the election. That allows them to take up or identify the local issues. Otherwise, it’s completely controlled by Delhi. The BJP has a hugely centralised strategy and that doesn’t seem to be working at the moment,” observed Narendra Pani, political analyst.

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| Edited by: Ashutosh Tripathi
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